The Oak Street Playhouse

Welcome to The Oak Street Playhouse!

Since the late 1970s, The Oak Street Playhouse has been providing family entertainment and cultural enrichment. Located on the second floor of First-Centenary at the corner of Oak and Lindsay Streets, The Playhouse has become what June Hatcher, former Entertainment Editor of the Chattanooga Free Press, wrote, "A gem of a theater in downtown Chattanooga," which includes a spring play and a popular December Dinner-Theatre that draws audiences from across Tennessee.

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Upcoming Events

The Wild Women of Winedale

This joyful and exuberant, yet ultimately touching, comedy focuses on three women at crossroads in their lives—the Wild sisters of Winedale, Virginia. This feisty and fun-loving trio has supported and cheered one another through life’s highs and lows through the years, including the early demise of two of their husbands. This comedy is guaranteed to drive you wild with laughter—and motivate you to keep hounding the kids to please take that stack of quilts and Granny’s Christmas china!

The Oak Street Playhouse, closed since the COVID-19 virus stopped rehearsals from our spring 2020 show, will reopen September 24 with shows over two weekends with the hilarious, touching “The Wild Women of Winedale.” And, thanks to the church’s Permanent Endowment Committee, the theater we share with the church’s children’s ministry, has new paint, new curtains, new sound and lighting, and soon will have new chairs.
“The Wild Women of Winedale,” the play the theater was rehearsing in the spring of 2020, is a Jones, Hope, Wooten comedy like several of our shows that our audiences have enjoyed over the past few years.
We are reopening with patron health in mind and safety practices in place.  In accordance with CDC guidelines and the Holston Conference of the United Methodist Church, we will ask you to wear masks while entering/exiting the building as well as during the performance in the theater.  Socially distanced seating will be limited to 50 people, and hand sanitizer will be available at entrance to the theater. Performances will be available at 7:30 p.m. Friday and Saturday, September 24-25, Thursday, September 30, and Friday and Saturday, October 1-2, and 2 p.m. September 25-26 and October. 2-3.

You Better Watch Out!

It's Christmas Eve at the Willow Inn. The hosts Jenny and Tom are having Art, (Jenny's father who's still mourning the passing of his wife) see their bed and breakfast for the first time. There's a snowstorm raging outside and three travelers are forced to lodge at the inn and wait it out.

The Oak Street Playhouse Puppets 

Fred Arnold, creator and producer of the puppet theater at First-Centenary, decided in 2010 it was time to retire his puppets and his shows after a nearly 30-year run. He had retired several years earlier as director of the shows himself.  Many of his puppets were sold and the profits given to the church.
His show "The Blue Bird" is now owned by onetime puppeteer Colleen Laliberte, who has produced the show.  He has continued to work with Colleen and has produced a new show for the stage on Signal Mountain.

Our History

In the 1970's, when people in Chattanooga were flocking to the suburbs, First-Centenary United Methodist Church took a giant leap forward with a decision to expand their facilities to become a more viable force in downtown Chattanooga.  In the plans were blueprints for a theater, suggested by Flo Summitt, a church member.  Senior Minister Dr. Ralph Mohney envisioned a drama ministry and in 1978, with the completion of the new wing, the theater was a reality.  Located on the second floor, the theater was really only a large room: a stage with just one entrance and no curtain, a long wall banked with stationary picture windows that extended up to the stage, and a limited number of stage lights. But it was a theater!

The first play presented in 1980 in the newly named Oak Street Playhouse was The Trial of Pontius Pilate, an interesting choice in which a jury, selected from the audience each night, decided the fate of Pilate.  The director was Nancy Lane Wright, a member of First-Centenary and artistic director of the Dance Theatre Workshop in Chattanooga.  Flo Summitt became the producer and Robert Smartt designed the lighting and sound.  The play ran two nights and there was no admission charge.  The following year, Fred Arnold came on board as set designer and as creator/director of the Oak Street Playhouse Puppet Theatre.

Now, years since it's beginning, like an acorn, Oak Street Playhouse continues to grow with its mission of providing outstanding family-style entertainment and cultural enrichment.

Throughout ensuing years, helped by generous donations and efforts of the Playhouse volunteers, carpeted risers were built, windows were closed in, a stage curtain hung and new lights and light board installed.  Suzanne Smartt became the Artistic Director in 1992.  The Playhouse produces a variety of productions: dramas such as Ibsen's A Doll's House, classic comedies like Harvey, musicals such as My Fair Lady and 1998's season's run-away favorite, The Moving of Lilla Barton, winner of the Alabama Shakespeare Festival Southern Writer's Competition.

The Playhouse today has become what June Hatcher, former Entertainment Editor of the Chattanooga Free Press, wrote, "A gem of a theater in downtown Chattanooga," which includes a spring play and a popular December Dinner-Theatre that draws audiences from across Tennessee.

The Playhouse holds open auditions with casts of actors from both Tennessee and North Georgia.  By invitation they performed Camelot before thousands at the 1989 International Methodist Men's Conference held on the Purdue University campus and their production of The Rainmaker competed at the Southeastern Theatre Conference in 1991.