IT ALL STARTED WITH THE BUILDING. The Depot Theatre was founded in 1979 by Carol Buchanan, former President of the Westport Historical Society, which maintained stewardship over the historic Westport train station. The Historical Society saw the potential for cultural activity in the partially renovated D&H train station, and decided to begin presenting theatre in the space. They turned to a unique funding solution to accomplish that goal: Wednesday Night Bingo. Initially this venture raised the tidy sum of nearly $3,000.
In 1985, the Depot Theatre stepped out from under the Historical Societyâ€™s umbrella to become its own separate not-for-profit entity. In 1988, it became a professional theatre company operating under an agreement with Actorsâ€™ Equity Association, the union of professional actors and stage managers. In 2006, the Depot Theatre also became a member of the Theatre Communications Group, the national organization for professional, non-profit theaters.
Since 1979, the Depot Theatre has produced over 170 plays in its handicap accessible, 136 seat performance space (the former D&H freight room, now fully air conditioned.) In 1995, the Depot Theatre was recognized with a Park Heritage Award from the Adirondack Council and in 2000 with an Adirondack Architectural Heritage Award which recognized major renovation and restoration work to the historical building.
Though Delaware and Hudson is no "longer in operation, AMTRAK continues to service rail passengers on the Adirondack Line between NYC and Montreal. The Westport stop is a primary gateway to the Adirondack Park, and the train station and the Theatre have developed a unique partnership to keep this historical space vibrantly used and maintained, as the Depot Theatre continues to be the steward of this historical site.
[insert image] Jeremy Michael
At present, the Town of Westport owns the station building and leases space to both the Depot Theatre and to Amtrak. The CP Rail owns the land upon which the building sits, and owns and maintains the track.
Shami McCormick, Artistic Director, is acutely aware of what the building represents. "The Depot is a perfect metaphor for the theatre," she said. "It is fitting that it is a place of stories and storytelling, and of journeys."
Weâ€™re grateful to the minds and energy of people like Carol Buchanan, who were catalysts for the creation and evolution of a high-quality, live professional theatre in an historic train depot. Today, the entire Depot Theatre community embraces that metaphor, and invite all to "Take a Journey without leaving the station."
[insert image] Dancers audition for â€śRiffinâ€™ & Tappinâ€™â€ť at Ripley Grier studios in New York City in March.
"I used to look at the descriptions of the individual shows to see whether this was a play I wanted to see. Eventually, I learned that I should stop picking and choosing because I was regretting missing the shows I didn't see.
I learned I should just trust Shami's taste, because the productions are all excellent. I should just subscribe!" ~ Kathryn Cramer, Depot Theatre subscriber