A Century of Stars

Cape Cod Life  /  Annual Life 2022 /

Writer: Rachel Walman

For nearly 100 years, The Cape Playhouse has been home to idols of the stage and screen. Its storied history is brimming with tales of those who believed, those who dreamed, and those who came together to create a special place that has remained a beacon in the annals of old Cape Cod.  Basil Rathbone talking with the stage crew in 1927. Photo courtesy of The Cape Playhouse It's a slightly overcast afternoon on the Fourth of July. Your family has recently taken the train from New York to Cape Cod, but you’re borrowing a Ford Model T to get around the sandy lanes for the next month. Your summer home is nestled in Dennis Village, where it can swell to a population of 1,500 this time of year! You’ve spent the day enjoying homemade lemonade and a game of croquet, but as the sun begins to set, a few dark clouds start rolling in. While firecrackers go off in the distance, your family putters over to the brand-new Cape Playhouse to see the theater’s very first production: “The Guardsman”, starring Basil Rathbone and Violet Kemble Cooper. As the play progresses from one act to the next, you begin to feel drops of rain falling from the ceiling. Eventually, the audience begins surreptitiously putting up their umbrellas, but the curtain closed with rousing applause for a successful performance. It is 1927, and little did you know that you had seen the first performance of what would be the longest running professional summer theater in the United States. For 95 years, The Cape Playhouse has been putting on plays and musicals, showcasing talent from around the world, seeing a company of stars from the past century: Basil Rathbone, John Carradine, Julie Andrews, Bernadette Peters, Olympia Dukakis, Bette Davis, Henry Fonda, Betty…

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