Mac-Haydn marks half century on the boards

CHATHAM – Last Thursday, May 24, the Mac-Haydn Theatre celebrated its 50th anniversary, and kicked off a new season. The first show of the summer, “Damn Yankees” runs through June 3, and has already received rave reviews.

“We’ve had an amazing weekend, we got a great review, and we’re off!” says Producing Artistic Director John Saunders.

Mr. Saunders has been on-board as the artistic director since 2012, but previously directed and acted in various Mac-Haydn productions from the early 2000s on. He’s the man running it all behind the scenes, with the help of Company Manager Monica Wemitt.

“I think [the theatre] turning 50 is incredible, I feel like I’ve been here such a long time, but it’s nothing compared to how long the theatre has been here,” he said. “I think it’s astounding the number of people that are connected in some way to this theatre all over New York, and all over the world, really.”

Performers on stage at the Mac-Haydn Theatre last week performing “Heart Encore” from “Damn Yankess. The theatre, just outside the Village of Chatham, turns 50 this year. Photo contributed

Mr. Saunders spoke of what a year at Mac-Haydn looks like, from picking the shows and getting the rights to produce them, to fundraising and casting people for roles.

“I love the casting part of it,” he said. “I can’t say the business side is my absolute favorite part, but I love to meet the people who are going to bring the shows to life. We spend so many months thinking about the shows, and then we see someone and say, ‘Wow, that’s going to be Fanny Brice’ and the picture really comes into focus.”

The Mac-Haydn was originally founded in 1969 by friends Linda MacNish, a writer, and Lynne Haydn, an aspiring actress. After renting a cow barn at the Chatham Fairgrounds that summer to put on musicals, they decided to give it another go the following year, and the theatre is still going strong to this day, albeit in a better location. Ms. MacNish died in 2002. Ms. Haydn died last Friday, May 25, and was commemorated in ceremonies at the Mac-Haydn that day.

For events related to the 50th anniversary, Mr. Saunders shared that there will be a special children’s show this summer that was written for the Mac-Haydn, and composed by their Music Director David Maglione. The show, “Wendy’s Shadow,” tells the story of Peter Pan through the eyes of the character Wendy, and has its world premiere August 3.

“I’d like to keep the energy up and going all summer, I don’t want everything to just come out now and then forget it. We don’t want to lose sight that we’re celebrating 50 years.”

He also added that it’s his hope that the incredible training grounds of the theatre will be up and running for a long time to come.

For a complete list of shows this season, visit

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