All the World’s a Stage, but…
Between 1966 and 2005 a performance stage–as Shakespeare would have recognized it–did not exist in Mountain City or Johnson County, Tenn. Church social halls and school gymnasiums were the only venues for live entertainment but were no match for events staged in the “old high school auditorium” which closed in 1966 (with the opening of the “new” high school which had no auditorium). Evelyn Cook, a former drama teacher at the high school, and others “hatched” the idea of removing the stored lockers and school desks, buying new seats, curtains, and sound system and re-establishing the auditorium as a performance stage in a community which had none.
In seven years a small group of volunteers raised the money, organized labor and oversaw a top-to-bottom renovation which breathed life into a 1923 era, almost abandoned high school auditorium. In September 2005, the facility reopened as Heritage Hall Theatre, an intimate, warm, community-based-theatre suitable for a wide range of performances and events.
On Sunday afternoon, September 25, 2005, Heritage Hall Officially opened. The Ribbon Cutting Ceremony was enjoyed by invited guests, all of whom had helped in some way to make the dreams become reality. Guests included state, county, and city officials, committee members and others who had worked on any project pertaining to the renovation. Appalachian Regional Commission and Barter Theater were also represented. Following the ceremony, guests enjoyed a tour of the entire facility and a reception.
On the evening of September 30, 2005, the community was invited to the Grand Opening of Heritage Hall…”
Pictured to the right are the “Heritage Hall Players.” This incredible group of seven are truly the backbone of the historic theater. This still remains very evident today with four members still actively serving on the Board of Directors.
Today you will enjoy a diverse group of entertaining events throughout the year. From blues to rock, from plays to pageants, this is a perfect location to enjoy a performance or book for your group.
Judy McGuire served as the inaugural chair of the Heritage Hall Oversight Committee, propelling the project to completion and success. Dedicated to the arts and Johnson County. Evelyn Cook marshaled her connections and gift of communication to promote the Heritage Hall project. Creative genius extraordinaire. Howard Elvidge designed and oversaw the entire renovation. Joan Trathen was the committee’s first program chair and its first secretary, entrusting the latter role to Romayne St. John, who continued as secretary for the HH board until 2011. Robert Hotchkiss contributed legal expertise as a lawyer and former participant of a similar project In Atlanta. Retired regional judge and attorney general Lewis May offered legal advice and professional connections throughout the state.
“During the late 1970s, the search for the new home began. In the early 1980s, mayor Max Wilson was made aware of the need for a theater in the community. He convened a committee to survey the community, and find its greatest needs. The results were three-fold: the need for a library, a community center, and a theater. Mayor Wilson had a Bristol architect draw up plans for a complex to be built at Ralph Stout Park, which would include the three major units. Just as the committee consisting of Kathleen Howard, Dr. John Whitlock, Lewis Wills, Dorothy Howard, and Evelyn Cook were planning to start fundraising events, Mayor Willison was replaced by Mr. AJ. Stalcup. The new mayor was not interested in the project and it died on the vine. But the dream lived on and the search continued.”