Cumberland County Playhouse



In 1963, Crossville, Tennessee hadn’t really begun to be a tourism and retirement destination.  The Cumberland County seat and its Appalachian region weren’t growing.  Resort & recreational development was in its infancy.  Economic challenge was normal.  In August of that year, Broadway, summer stock and TV professional Paul Crabtree moved his family to Crossville, his wife Mary’s mother’s hometown. Local folks who knew of his background asked him to share his experience with the schools, during what he planned as a short small town break from New York and LA.

In December of that year, Paul’s musical THE PERILS OF PINOCCHIO (created for a 1958 school benefit at Royal Poinciana Playhouse, the theater he founded in Palm Beach) was presented at the Junior High School with a cast, crew & orchestra of 200 youngsters.  The performance electrified the town.  To folks in a community with no museums, college, performing groups, one movie theatre, and a 90-minute drive to the nearest city, it was exciting that PINOCCHIO might begin new educational opportunities for their children.

Civic & cultural leaders asked Crabtree how they could keep things like PINOCCHIO happening in Crossville.  He replied, “Well, you’d have to build a theater.  The old junior high auditorium isn’t even safe.”  Remarkably, in a town of 5,000, a county of 25,000, that’s exactly what they did.  The entire community got behind the idea of the Playhouse because people believed it could make a vital contribution to education, the local economy, and help create some new jobs.

The Cumberland County Playhouse is now a major non-profit professional performing arts resource in rural Tennessee, & one of the 10 largest professional theaters in rural America.  It serves more than 100,000 visitors annually with professional theater on three stages, young audience productions, a comprehensive dance and theater education program, a concert series & touring shows.  CCP serves one of the state’s largest nonprofit performing arts audiences, and owns and operates its major facility. We serve 90 out of 95 Tennessee counties and host patrons from the entire country as well as many international visitors.

The Playhouse is committed to the arts as an indigenous, homegrown part of rural America – not a commodity imported from urban centers. The company offers works based upon Tennessee & Southeastern history & culture, plus national, state & regional premieres, new and classic musicals and revivals of works with Southern and Appalachian themes.  The Playhouse also offers programming which includes major elements of opera, dance & challenging dramatic works, with over 400 performances & 1400 classes in theater, music & dance annually.

With an annual budget of over $2.6 million, CCP is among Tennessee’s most self-sufficient arts groups.  Since opening in 1965, about 75% of all revenues have been from earned income, including facility construction.  A 27,000 square foot expansion & a 30,000 square foot downtown warehouse enable the company to produce up to 5 shows running in rep at once, and to build and retain productions for rental nationwide.

A resident professional company & a staff of 35 are joined by hundreds of visiting professionals & a large multi-county volunteer corps.  Over half of all revenues are used for professional artist compensation.  The Playhouse has been managed & directed by two generations of the Crabtree family since 1965.