Theatre to kick off 100-year anniversary this May

Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses to perform


Celebrating 100 years of the Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts, the theatre kicked off with a sold-out first show of the season, “Harry Chapin at 80: A Retrospective.” Opening day for the theatre, which was then known as Ward & Glynne’s Theatre, was May 23, 1923. The Patchogue Theatre, today, will host an official celebration on May 20, 2023, with a performance by Louis Prima Jr. and the Witnesses, following an invite-only pre-show reception. Tickets to the entertainment portion of the celebration go on sale this Friday, Feb. 3, starting at $39, at However, through sponsorships and fundraising, the theatre staff hopes to make the performance accessible to everyone in the community.

Louis Prima was a singer, songwriter, bandleader, and trumpeter using various genres throughout his career, including a New Orleans-style jazz. He started his career in the ‘20s and by the ‘50s, performed frequently in Vegas. His hits, which are now also TikTok famous, include “Pennies from Heaven” and “Che La Luna.”  His son, Louie Prima Jr., now carries on his legacy, bringing his music to the 21st century. The act was chosen specifically for the occasion, being that, according to executive director Michele Rizzo-Berg, his music is multigenerational.

“We wanted an artist that encompassed all different demographics and ages,” she said. “It’s going to be a really fun night.”

Throughout the year, the theatre will also be celebrating with multiple performances, including a barbershop quartet and swing dancing on the Loading Dock as well as multiple special performances, including one from Judy Collins, who will perform “Wildflowers with String Section.” The idea is to hit shows from every decade, Rizzo-Berg said, including the sold-out talk with the cast of “The Sopranos,” a show from the late ‘90s early 2000s, slated for this Saturday, Feb. 4. 

“We are absolutely excited,” Rizzo-Berg said of the year ahead. “People can come and see entertainment locally and not have to travel to the city. Not many small towns have that… and this one is treasured; the community really supports it.”

She credits the success of the age-old theatre to the support of the village, including the mayor, trustees, the chamber and local businesses, as well as the community.
“It is an honor to serve, especially during our 100th anniversary. My mother danced and my aunt played the accordion on the Patchogue Theatre stage in the 1930s when they were children. My children have performed on the stage and I have, too. So, the 100th anniversary is really a family affair,” said Patchogue Village trustee and deputy mayor Jack Krieger, who was elected in 2004 and appointed theatre liaison and later became a voting member of the theatre board.
“The theatre has had a long life because of that support, and so we hope to continue that for another 100 years,” Rizzo-Berg added.


For almost 100 years, the Village of Patchogue has had a stage at the center of its community—the historic Patchogue Theatre venue that originally opened as Ward & Glynne’s Theatre, in 1923. In its day, Patchogue Theatre attracted first-run feature films, Broadway productions, silent films, the very best in burlesque, vaudeville, and live music performances with acts such as Bette Davis, Eddie Foy and the Fabulous Foys, The Paul Whiteman Orchestra, The Marx Brothers, John Philip Sousa and Rose’s Royal Midgets, to name a few. During Patchogue Theatre’s early years, the price of admission only cost 40 cents for adults and half that price for children. Glynne operated the theatre until the Great Depression, when it was purchased by Prudential Playhouses Inc. Not long after, the days of vaudeville had come to a close, but an evolving film industry and updated sound equipment helped maintain the theatre as a major venue for first-run films on Long Island, while also serving as a community center for bingo, sing-alongs, and other activities.

After a fire hit the theatre lobby in 1958, the theatre was redecorated and designed in a simple and austere manner, with much of the ornate decor simply covered up by plywood, drywall and wallpaper. Patchogue Theatre continued to operate solely as a movie house, and in 1982, the ground floor was divided into two theatre screens with the addition of a ceiling to extend the balcony level for a third screen. Essentially, this turned the theatre into a “triplex,” which it continued to operate as until 1987 when the building was closed. The combination of both an economic recession and the opening of a 12-screen multiplex theatre nearby no longer allowed Patchogue Theatre to be profitable as a movie house.  It stood empty for eight years, and an investigation of the building by village officials and business leaders in October 1994 found that much of the original decor had been preserved under the drywalls, wallpaper, and plywood that was installed in the late 1950s.

In 1996, three local businessmen came up with the initial funds to purchase the theatre while the Incorporated Village of Patchogue applied for grants to renovate and restore the venue to its former glory. The theatre’s interior was restored to its 1923 grandeur in several phases and The Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts (PTPA) opened for business with its first performance in December 1998.

Although the Village of Patchogue owns the historic Patchogue Theatre venue, the staff and volunteers of Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts manage the theatre, under the leadership of a volunteer board of directors, through a community-based 501(c)(3) nonprofit arts organization known as the Patchogue Village Center for the Performing Arts. PTPA leases the building from the Village of Patchogue and covers all of the costs of operating the building, including programming, without any taxpayer subsidies.

Since 2004, Patchogue Theatre has maintained a state-of-the-art world-class sound system and Broadway-caliber lighting and rigging. New, more spacious seating with better sightlines was installed by McHugh Institutional Furnishings in the winter of 2016. The new seats made their debut that spring at Patchogue Theatre’s first show back on April 2, featuring The Chapin Family.

There are now 854 orchestra seats and 252 balcony seats, bringing Patchogue Theatre’s total number of seats to 1,106, including the handicap-accessible seating throughout the orchestra level. This allows Patchogue Theatre for the Performing Arts to remain the largest theatre in Suffolk County. n


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