|Bucks County Playhouse in New Hope, PA|
By Charlie Sahner
A group of concerned citizens and civic leaders has been formed and held meetings with additional parties in an attempt to secure ownership of the Bucks County Playhouse and ensure that it remains an artistic asset to the community, according to several individuals familiar with the situation who asked to remain anonymous due to the sensitivity of the negotiations.
Ralph A. Miller, owner of New Hope's famed Bucks County Playhouse, is having apparent difficulty making debt payments, and barring any last minute financial or legal efforts, the theater will be auctioned off at a sheriff sale in Doylestown on Nov. 12, confirmed county officials and court records.
Sources say that a last-minute payment or related action by the owner would not be unexpected.
Miller has been running the theater since 1977, and owes the Stonebridge Bank of Skippack more than $2 million, documents reveal. Neither Miller, his lawyer nor any official of Stonebridge Bank or its parent company would return phone calls requesting information.
Borough officials have also not yet responded to requests for information.
Sheriff sales are much like regular foreclosure auctions, but are presided over by a sheriff due to a state requirement.
Miller was personally served with a notice of the sale on Aug. 25 of this year, a sheriff's hand bill was posted on Sept. 28, and the final affidavit attesting to the notice of sale was filed Oct. 27, according to court records.
Speaking of the upcoming sale, Mechanic Street Mugs owner and business leader Joel Roberts commented, "The Playhouse has a history going back to the Canal House days associating it with Mechanic Street and its businesses. We look forward to whatever future the playhouse has and will continue to work hand in hand with them to improve the creative environment of this artistic neighborhood."
The Bucks County Playhouse, centrally located at 70 S. Main St., quickly became known as a pre-Broadway theater venue following its 1939 opening, with shows like Barefoot in the Park and Harvey premiering there.
The roll call of actors appearing in Playhouse productions is myriad, as are stories of the rumored off-stage antics of some at local bars, restaurants and gatherings. Playhouse actors have included Robert Redford, Grace Kelly, Helen Hayes, Kim Hunter, Shirley Booth, Paul Lynde, Gale Gordon, Roddy McDowell, Walter Matthau, Merv Griffen and Larry Hagman.