The Goodspeed Opera House has endured as a majestic presence on the Connecticut River since it was built in 1876 by William H. Goodspeed, shipping and banking magnate and avid theatre lover. Since that time the Opera House has lived two lives: the first as a bustling center of commerce housing a theatre, professional offices, steamboat passenger terminal ,and a general store; and the second, after a period of neglect and deterioration, as a magnificent professional musical theatre fully restored in 1963 to its original splendor.
Goodspeed's history goes back to its opening night on October 24, 1877, when a repertory group presented the comedy Charles II and the farces Box and Cox and Turn Him Out. Featured performers of the day were brought to East Haddam by steamboat, many directly from theatres in New York.
After William Goodspeed's death, the theatre was eventually sold and used as a storage depot for the State Highway Department. The building was marked for demolition in 1958, but local preservationists became interested, and in 1959 the Goodpeed Opera House Foundation was organized to restore and reactivate the theatre. With the cooperation of the State of Connecticut and the support of donor-members of the Foundation, the Goodspeed Opera House was restored and rededicated on June 8, 1963, with the opening of the musical Oh, Lady! Lady!!
The theater in the Victorian-style Goodspeed Opera House is located on the fourth floor of the tallest wooden structure on the Connecticut River, and was constructed in 1876. A new stage was built over the original and incorporates what were formerly audience boxes into the downstage left and right areas. The boxes now serve as actor entrances below and lighting positions above.
The stage is raked 3/16" to the foot and has three permanent motorized winch tracks, in-one, in-two, and in-three. The in-one and in-two tracks are generally split on center to provide independent left and right tracks, while the in-three is rigged to travel full-stage. All three configurations have some flexibility and all winches are independent variable-speed DC drives, controlled from various positions in the wings.
The grid at the Goodspeed Opera House consists of 2" x 7" microlam joists installed in January 1995, which resemble the original wooden beams. Drops are flown using 6" diameter roll tubes and traveler track is used extensively to move sliders, drapes, and other scenery. Electrics and hard scenic masking are flown using block and falls and are dead hung below the grid; all flying units and drops are custom rigged for each production.
The Norma Terris Theatre was inaugurated in 1984 by the Goodspeed Opera House for the development of new musicals. The theatre is named in honor of the actress Norma Terris, star of Jerome Kern's Show Boat and a devoted patron and trustee of the Goodspeed Opera House during her later years.
Miss Terris began her stage career as a young vaudeville performer, which led to her first major role in George M. Cohan's Little Nellie Kelly. She gained immortal acclaim as the creator of the roles of Magnolia and Kim in the original Florenz Ziegfeld 1927 production of Show Boat. After making two films for Fox, Married in Hollywood and Cameo Kirby, she starred for ten seasons at the Municipal Opera Company in St. Louis. Miss Terris first performed for Goodspeed audiences in the 1970 production of Little Mary Sunshine. She presided over the dedication of The Norma Terris Theatre, and in 1987 she established the Norma Terris Fund to expand the talents of individuals and to foster the vitality, excellence and diversity of musical theatre at The Norma Terris Theatre. A beloved friend of the Goodspeed Opera House, Norma Terris is remembered for enriching the art of musical theatre with her beautiful voice, fine acting and generous spirit.
The Norma Terris Theatre formerly was a factory built in the early 1900s for Susan Bates, Inc., which became one of the largest manufacturers of knitting needles and needlework accessories. In 1982, after locating to a larger facility, Susan Bates, Inc., donated its abandoned factory in Chester to the Goodspeed Opera House Foundation. The space was fully renovated as an intimate 200-seat theatre, and opened its doors on July 10, 1984, with the new musical Harrigan ’n’ Hart.
Inaugurated in 1984 by the Goodspeed Opera House for the development of new musicals, the theatre is named in honor of the actress Norma Terris, star of Jerome Kern's Show Boat and a devoted patron and trustee of the Goodspeed Opera House during her later years.
The Norma Terris Theatre is best described as a flexible proscenium with little theatrical architecture to interfere with the ambitious designer. There is a respectable amount of wing space. The grid at The Norma Terris Theatre consists of steel I-beams running upstage to downstage on roughly 54" centers, butting to steel channels running left to right on roughly 10 foot centers. There are 2 x 12 wooden planks laid flat across the channels to take up the space in between the I-beams. Roll tubes and traveler tracks are used in the same manner as in the Opera House, and again, each production is custom rigged.
After decades of dreaming, many years of planning and nearly two years of construction, Goodspeed Musicals’ Artists Village is now a reality. Located near the Goodspeed Opera House in East Haddam, Connecticut, seventeen gleaming new houses are now part of the fabric of this scenic New England town. Click to read more.
The Goodspeed Production Department operates year-round at our shops in East Haddam, Connecticut, located in the East Haddam Industrial Park at 5 Commerce Drive. Phone: 860.873.8664, ext. 710; Fax: 860.873.2480
The Chauncey Stillman Production Facility is named in honor of the late Chauncey Devereux Stillman. By bequest Mr. Stillman established the Homeland Foundation which provided Goodspeed Musicals with a generous grant to help purchase the facility. The late E. Lisk Wyckoff, Jr., a former member of Goodspeed Musicals’ Board of Trustees, was President of the Homeland Foundation up until his death in December 2012. Under Mr. Wyckoff’s leadership, the Homeland Foundation focused on transformative giving, and the gift for the purchase and development of the Stillman Production Facility exemplified this, expanding our production capacity and allowing us to build ever more elaborate sets and produce scenery and props of the highest artistic quality for our stages. Today, the Chauncey Stillman Production Facility is one of the largest and finest theatrical production facilities in the country.
The Scene Shop is one of the largest and best equipped shops in regional theatre. Our expansive 13,000 square foot facility houses all the tools necessary to complete projects of all types, large and small.
The Goodspeed Scene Shop proper is roughly 73' wide by 100' long with a maximum ceiling height of 25'. There are three 10' x 10' loading doors on the west wall of the shop, two at standard 48" dock height, the third at ground level. An additional 2200-square foot auxiliary scenic prep and storage area is connected to the main shop by a 10' x 10' loading door on fusible link. The shop is a well-equipped woodworking facility with a full range of power tools, hand tools, pneumatics, and a dust collection system.
The Paint Shop is 140' long x 80' wide, divided by a central row of columns, 25' apart. The shop is equipped with a sprung celotex covered deck about 40' wide x 105' long for drop painting and a 38' x 100' area for hard scenery and prop painting. The Scenic Art Department services all Goodspeed productions, including the Norma Terris Theatre in Chester. The paint shop has also taken on non-union commissioned work for many designers and theatres nationally and internationally, as well as commercial venues, display projects, and much more. We are best known for our drop painting abilities, but our capabilities include sculpting, sign work, carving, groundcloths and all manner of hard scenery, along with decorative finishes.
Our scenic artists bring many years of experience to the shop. The department has many professional scenic artists who travel from coast to coast to work in our shop. We are dedicated to fine workmanship and close collaboration with our clients to create the best product possible. Please contact us for your custom drop needs.
The Goodspeed Prop Shop is fully equipped to handle the construction and restoration of most furniture, including upholstered and metal items. The shop is equipped with power and hand tools, pneumatics, and a spray booth. Hand prop and furniture inventories are extensive and include a wide selection of period furniture, much of which has been custom built for our small stage space. The props inventory is catalogued in an inventory of digital images as well as conventional photographs.
THE SCHERER LIBRARY OF MUSICAL THEATRE
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THE MAX SHOWALTER ROOM
The latest chapter in a legacy left to Goodspeed Musicals by their longtime friend and supporter Max Showalter, this very special room holds not only the memorabilia from the decades long career of this beloved actor of stage and screen, but is now home to Showalter’s pair of baby grand pianos. It was Max’s wish that these beloved instruments be shared by composers, musicians and performers in a space that will be used for programs and events to inspire and educate “young creators in the fields of theatre, film and music.” The Max Showalter Foundation, Inc. supported this latest addition to The Max Showalter Center for Education at Goodspeed Musicals which has supported education programs for the last six years.
Our costume staff includes technicians and artisans with backgrounds in theatrical design, ballet, and fashion. We have built garments ranging from trousers to tutus, paniers to pillbox hats, and kilts to kimonos.
Our capabilities include flat patterning, draping, and the construction and alteration of garments, including corsets and dancewear. The shop is also versed in the construction and refurbishing of millinery and leather garments, as well as needlework, and jewelry design and construction. Wig design, maintenance, and ventilation are also available.
The costume shop is outfitted to accommodate both large and small projects. It is equipped with industrial sewing and merrow machines, as well as an industrial leather walking foot machine and a blind hemmer. Our staff has collaborated with New York and regional theatre designers, including Jess Goldstein, Suzy Benzinger, Pamela Scofield, and Catherine Zuber.
Our costume collection includes over 250,000 garments from over 30 Broadway shows. Visit our rental site.
Named in memory of long-time Goodspeed assistant choreographer Larry A McMillian, the Rehearsal Studio features three rooms: a music area where songs arelearned, the “Waterfall Foom” where book scenes are staged, and the “Large Room” where directors and choreographers have a space the same size as the Goodspeed stage where they can put the show on its feet.