In the News: The Belfry Music Theater

In the News: The Belfry Music Theater

Hollywood Ties to Acting Royalty

 

What do Paul Newman, Harrison Ford and Gary Burghoff (Radar from M*A*S*H) all have in common? They all began their acting careers at a small summer stock theater in Delavan, Wisconsin, called the Belfry Theater.

You wouldn't expect such a humble beginning for Hollywood royalty, but the Belfry Theater helped pave the way for their success. The building still exists today, on the west side of 67, across from Mercy Hospital. It has been restored into a beautiful music venue.

Back in 1949, when Paul Newman was a Resident Actor at the theater, the Belfry was known for the grueling pace of their repertory system. Actors worked in the scene shop all day and performed nearly every night and while it was said to be exhausting, it was an effective form of training. 

According to Jim McClure, village historian and Harrison Ford fanatic, "Ford, who was born in Chicago, attended Ripon College in Central Wisconsin and just a few months before graduating in 1964, dropped out of school because he was offered his first paid acting job with the Belfry Players." McClure continues, "After six plays, and as the last Resident Actor at The Belfry, he headed to Los Angeles in hopes of making a career in motion pictures."  

It has been said that the Belfry's system was valuable for teaching young actors what was necessary to make their characters' traits clear and to sell plots in many different styles to an audience.  Based on the legacy that it has left behind, they must have been doing something right.

The building went up for auction in 2015 and was purchased by Transformative Arts, who revitalized the theater, breathing new life into the community. It was thought, given it's proximity to the medical center, that the property would be been torn down and turned into a pharmacy chain or another big box store, but thankfully, Transformative Arts came to it's rescue. The Theater re-opened in 2016.

The stunning venue has 250 seats and features a line up of artists, mostly tribute bands throughout the year. During intermissions, fresh baeked chocolate chip cookies are provided as well as Dove ice cream bars after the show. Both are free of charge and offered with the intent of patrons gathering to share a snack and to discuss the show. 

With the Belfry's rich history of cultivating world class actors, we are excited to have this wonderful theater in our community.  For further information, call the Belfry at 262-394-6460 or visit www.BelfryMusicTheatre.com.