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    Shawnee Summer Theatre

     

         Dr. H. Adrian Rehner was a professional theater actor, director, and head of the theater and speech department of a Chicago city college.  Dr. H. Adrian Rehner and his brother, Robert Pataconi Rehner, were asked to help start a summer theater for Greene County that would later become known as Shawnee Theatre.  Other interested people who helped organize the summer theater were Loren S. McDonald, owner of a local lumber yard; Bealuh Bolton, a legal secretary; and Tom Reck, the news editor of The Bloomfield Evening World.

         A site for the theater was found when Mr. and Mrs. Wade Resler donated a big barn, which was located East of Bloomfield on the south side of Highway 54.  A stage and dressing room had to be added before the plays could begin.  Wood for the addition was donated by McDonald's Lumber Company as well as the labor by carpenters.

         The name for the theater came from the Shawnee Indians, who had previously lived in the area.  The most famous Shawnee Chief was the Great Tecumseh.  He defeated the troops of General William Henry Harrison at the Battle of Tippecanoe.  The Shawnee Summer Theatre is operated by an advisory board, which consists of local people from the county.

         The first fund raiser for this project was held during Thanksgiving week in 1959.  About 85 people paid $3.00 for the fund-raising dinner, which was held at the Cardinal Inn in Bloomfield.  Dr. Rehner and the other organizers explained that 700 tickets had been planned to be sold to cover expenses, but this goal was not met.  However, the organizers decided to go ahead with the first season.  The first play was "My Three Angels", held in 1960.  Over the first several seasons air-conditioning, concrete floors, and new padded chairs were added.

         By the fifteenth season, the advisory board realized that the barn was not large enough for the growing audiences.  They would have to add on to the barn or build a new theater.  Mr. and Mrs. Laverne Rollison, local developers, arranged a long-term lease of 3.5 acres.  This property was located south of Bloomfield on State Road 231.  The first production in the new building occurred with the beginning of its twentieth season.  A Shakespeare play was chosen for the dedication of the new theater.

         The theater produces six plays a year with sometimes a bonus show.  Shawnee is an incorporated, non-profit organization.  It is known as school of speech and dramatic arts.  Students, selected as winners of scholarships, are the only people accepted to participate at Shawnee.  Courses for students include make-up, acting, production, directing, scenery, design, and speech.  An important part of the theater is the Art Gallery.  It features a different Indiana artist each week.

         Another important aspect of the theater is the children's theater.  This production is held the last two weeks of the season.  The first week is study, and the second is the actual production.  These students are between the ages of six and fourteen

         Many famous people have come from Shawnee Summer Theatre.  Two the the most famous people were John Belushi and Ken Kercheval.  Belushi was famous for "Saturday Night Live" and movies such as "Animal House" and "The Blues Brothers."  Kercheval was in the long-running TV show "Dallas."

         The theater completed it's thirty-eighth consecutive season during the summer of 1997.  In addition to summer performances, the building is used by the Bloomfield School Corporation and other local organizations for special events.

      Article and Pictures Courtesy of Greene County Homes, Volume 4, 2005 Issue.  A publication of The Greene County Board of Realtors, Inc.

         
     
     


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