Akron's Historic Coach House Theater Changes Direction

Coach House Artistic Director JT Buck and playwright Rob Loos [David C. Barnett / ideastream]
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One of Northeast Ohio’s longest-running theatrical traditions is back on the boards after reports of uncertain finances, earlier this year.  Some critics have charged that, the Coach House theater didn’t play to large enough audiences.  A new leader is looking to change that.

When the Coach House’s artistic directors and board members announced last Spring that they were leaving due to financial differences with the theater’s parent organization, it appeared to be the end of a nine-decade run for the Akron institution.  But, when he read the dire headline in the Akron Beacon Journal, JT Buck started developing an alternate scenario.

"Like a lot of people, I rolled over in the morning and saw the Beacon saying Coach House may close," Buck recalls.  "And I went, 'No, I don’t think that’s a good idea.  Let’s see if we can find a good team and find a good way forward.'"

Working with that team, Buck developed a proposal to open the 93-seat theater to more uses, like concerts, meetings and gallery spaces.  Those ideas led to his current role at Coach House’s new Artistic Director.  Buck is also looking to program new plays that have a strong local connection. 

The first example of that just debuted, Christmas in Akron – The Musical, written by native son Rob Loos. 

"I'm amazed that he's got the first five shows sold-out," Loos says. "This is for an unseen, world premiere.  That's pretty cool."

The Coach House’s 90th birthday takes place next November.  The new artistic team is looking forward to celebrating the anniversary of one of the oldest, continuously operating community theaters in the country.

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