Our History

From its simple beginnings at the legendary Exchange Hall in Harwich Center to its current incarnation as a nationally recognized, year-round source of education and entertainment, our beloved theatre has always meant more than the sum of its productions. For thousands, it is “home,” brimming with creativity, collaboration, and a mutual love for live theatre.

Betty Bobp, our founder, was a respected drama teacher at Wheelock College in Boston. Her dream was to create a theatre that would provide opportunities for individuals of all ages to experience every aspect of the theatrical experience – from set and costume design, to playwriting, prop making, acting, and directing.

Betty set the cornerstone of her dream with the founding of the Harwich Junior Theatre organization in 1951 and secured space in Harwich Center’s historic four-story Exchange Hall – at the time, the tallest building on the Cape.

In the summer of 1952, along with a few volunteers, the new theatre mounted CinderellaTom Sawyer, and The Ghost of Mr. Penny at the Exchange Hall. Betty made the costumes, taught the students, built the sets, and directed the three shows on a budget of just $100. The organization’s following began to take hold, and a fourth summer production was added to the roster beginning in 1954.

In 1959, Harwich Junior Theatre was incorporated as a non-profit organization. During the 1960s, the theatre added an apprentice program and the Junior Players – a youth touring group. Both of these programs continue today.

In 1965, with the planned demolition of the Exchange Hall looming, Betty needed to find a new location for her theatre, and moved the organization to its current location in the former Ocean Hall on Division Street in West Harwich. Prior to that purchase, Ocean Hall had contained a first-floor public hall; its second story was occupied by Mount Horeb Lodge of Freemasons; and its third story was used as a dining room.

Around the same time, the theater also established a relationship with playwright Aurand Harris – its first of many artistic collaborations. Identified in the title of his biography as “America’s Most Produced Playwright for Young Audiences,” Harris summered in Harwich for many years, and worked with the theater, “directing and workshopping his latest plays for young audiences prior to publication.”1 Harris’ Rags to Riches premiered on the new Harwich Junior Theatre stage in 1966.

The Harwich Winter Theatre was established in 1970 by Harwich Junior Theatre alums Susan Kosoff, and Jane Staab, along with Anthony Hancock. It was the first of several efforts to extend the theatre productions into the off-season.

In the late 1970s, the Helikon Theatre was formed by Nina Schuessler and Sherrie and Philip Scudder. Helikon produced 10 shows in the 9 off-season months, while Betty’s Harwich Jr. Theatre productions continued to run during the summer months of June, July, and August.

During the 1980s, a front lobby, a rear two-story addition, a deck, and interior renovations provided significant improvements to the old building as the theatre transitioned into a year-round destination for live theatre and theatre arts education.

Betty Bobp remained involved as an advisor into the 1990s. In 1996, Nina Schuessler was hired as the organization’s first full-time, year-round producing artistic director. Under her stewardship, the theatre has grown tremendously; still it maintains Betty’s vision for an inclusive community that teaches students of all ages to appreciate the performing arts, and demonstrates the transformational power of theatre – particularly for young children.

In 1997, the organization was presented with a regional award for excellence and achievement in theatre by the New England Theatre Conference. That same year, Betty passed away, just a few years shy of the organization’s 50thanniversary.

In 2006, the organization signed a contract with the Town of Harwich to lease the building at 265 Sisson Road in Harwich Center. The building, now known as The Arts Center, expands the organization’s physical footprint and serves as rehearsal and classroom space, and hosts small-scale touring productions, open mic coffee houses, and experimental theatre.

In 2012, the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod presented Nina with its Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award for her contributions to the organization and the Cape community through her tremendous work with the theatre. During her tenure with the organization, Nina has produced and/or directed more than 200 plays and musicals, including 20 new scripts by playwrights in residence.

In August of 2015, the organization officially changed its name to the Cape Cod Theatre Company – Home of the Harwich Jr. Theatre. The change was significant in that it reflected the evolution of the organization from a small, seasonal venture to the pioneering force that it is today as a year-round center for theatre arts education and outreach – and a semi-professional theater theatre that mounts 10 full-scale productions each year for audiences of more than 20,000. The new name intentionally maintains the reference to its significant Harwich Junior Theatre roots and history.

The organization’s current staff of three full-time and one part-time employees, along with an active and involved Board of Directors work to ensure that the theatre continues to adhere to its mission and social responsibilities as it embraces a bright future.

Seasoned theatre professionals and members of the Actors’ Equity Association regularly staff our productions and classrooms with credentials of talent and experience in specific aspects of theatre – including directing; acting; choreography; sound, lighting, and set design; playwriting; and music.

Many of our family members have transformed their experience here into careers in the arts – some working behind the scenes, some becoming familiar faces on Broadway, the big screen, and on television. Others have applied the confidence and skills they gained at the Cape Cod Theatre Company to highly successful careers in business, as teachers, and in government.

Now generations into Betty’s wonderful dream, our theatre is more vital and vibrant than ever. It is alive with creators and creativity. Actors and audiences. Learning and mentoring. Camaraderie and friendships. It truly is a place for people of all ages to stage their dreams.

Our Staff

Nina SchuesslerProducing Artistic Director
Nina has been a driving force in Cape Cod theatre for the past 40 years as a teacher, actress, and director. She has been in her current role at the Cape Cod Theatre Company since 1996. During that time she has produced and/or directed more than 200 plays and musicals, including 20 new scripts by playwrights in residence. Building on the vision of Harwich Jr. Theatre founder, Betty Bobp, Nina also has helped develop the organization’s education and outreach into extensive, year-round programs. Under her direction, the organization was given the Regional Award for Theatre by the New England Theatre Conference, among many other accolades. Nina is the recipient of the 2012 Lifetime Achievement in the Arts Award from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod.
Tamara HarperDirector of Education and Community Outreach
Tamara is the Director of Education and Community Outreach at Cape Cod Theatre Company and has been a leading force in theatre education on Cape Cod for the past 20 years. At CCTC she has developed year round programming for Pre-K through Teen as well as for adults. She also leads CCTC’s extensive Outreach Program working with teachers to build programming that meets state curriculum frameworks. She has led workshops in Shakespeare, Greek Mythology, Creative Drama and Poetry and designed a Bullying and Teasing Prevention program that uses Creative Drama strategies to explore the dynamics of power and control. Tamara is an award winning actress who has toured her one woman production Tamsen Donner; a Woman’s Journey throughout New EnglandIn 2015 she was awarded the first Social Collaboration in the Arts Award from the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod for a bullying prevention curriculum called Know Myself, Understand Others. Tamara serves on the Board of Philanthropy Partners of the Cape and Islands. She is past Chair of the Board of the Charitable Foundation of the Harwich Chamber of Commerce (2012-2015). She served on the Board of the Harwich Chamber of Commerce (2006-2012) and on the Education Task Force for the Arts Foundation of Cape Cod (2007-2010). She has facilitated workshops for organizations throughout the Cape including WE CAN, LIFE (Living Independently Forever), The Latham Centers and Cape Cod Child Development.
Matthew KohlerTechnical Director
Matt has been working steadily on Cape since 2012 as a freelance theater director, technician, producer, and teacher. He is a founding member of the New Classics Company in the Guyer Art Barn in Hyannis, and has worked with the Cape Cod Symphony Orchestra, Boston Children’s Theatre, Iowa Pacific Holdings, and Cotuit Center for the Arts. Matt joined CCTC as technical director in 2015, and continues his work at the New Classics Company. He is a graduate of Keene State College with a BA in theatre and dance with concentrations in directing and design/technical theatre.
Louise HopperBox Office Manager
Jennifer HatchIT services

Artists in Residence

Our Board

Kristine SawyerPresident of the Board/ Building Committee
Kristine Sawyer has been a full time real estate agent on Cape Cod for over 11 years, and has been involved at the Harwich Junior Theatre for  years. Originally from the mid-west Kristine quickly fell in love with the Cape and all it has to offer. Kristine has been the president of the board since Spring 2017.
Sue KosoffVice President, Chair of Education Committee
What was your first show?:  Peter Pan in 1964. Directed by Aurand Harris. Steve Smith played Peter.

How did you end up at CCTC/HJT: I came to HJT as an apprentice through the venerable Betty Bobp who was the Head of the Theatre Department at Wheelock College where I was a student.

What is your favorite intermission snack?: Popcorn; least favorite snack to clean up: Popcorn.

Christopher PowickiTreasurer, Building Committee, Governance Committee
What is the first show you remember seeing at CCTC/HJT?:  Lily’s Purple Plastic Purse

What is your most meaningful HJT experience?: Hard to pick one … The obvious was seeing my son Charlie on stage, in the moment; hearing him work lines and practice his steps at home; observing the respect given, and example set, by other performers of all ages; watching him sign autographs after previously collecting them. Equally rewarding were glimpses behind the scenes – at the Arts Center (Old Rec), watching him work on blocking and delivery as Rob Zapple (and other teaching artists) envision what’s to come; upstairs at HJT, at warmup as the cast comes together. And then, seeing him give back as a teenager, helping younger actors learn their roles. Now, knowing he understands teamwork, speaks confidently in public, and has other lifelong skills learned at HJT.

Helping Rob and others rebuild the HJT stage on an extremely tight deadline, with short money, was also very rewarding – seeing the project come together with creativity and community, all in the name of safety and HJT’s future.

If you could bring back ANY show we have done, what would it be? Frankenstein – Charlie’s first show – preferably via time travel: same actors, at same ages 🙂

Megan DowneySecretary
What is the first show you worked on at CCTC/HJT?: The first time I was on stage was in There’s A Boy In The Girls’ Bathroom in 1992 which was directed by Amy Freedman.

What is your most meaningful HJT experience?: I would have to say it’s a tie between the friendships I made over the years at HJT that have lasted until this day and winning the Doane Award in 1999.

Who is your ESSENTIAL  jester: Emily Murray and Geoff O’Donnell.

Is there anything important you think we should know about you or your connection with CCTC/HJT? Yes! I have had so many amazing experiences at HJT but this year has been an especially nostalgic time for me at theatre. My niece and nephew were in their first show at HJT and I got to watch them fall in love with the theatre just like I did 25 years ago. It was the best deja vu.

Martha MurrayBuiling Committee, Governance Committee
What is your favorite CCTC/HJT Production?: My favorite show was Aladdin and his Magical Lamp.  It was the first show my daughter, Emily was in.  I remember being so proud and happy to see her stage as a fairy. I love looking at the black and white photo of the entire cast.

How did you end up at HJT?: I first became involved with the HJT through Bernice Healy around 1983. She was very active with the theater and encouraged me to bring my children. The theater has inspired many lifelong friendships. It’s a wonderful place for Cape children to meet and make friends with children from other Cape towns and off Cape.

Have you ever performed in a show?: I was in one show, The Best Christmas Pageant Ever(with Joanne Brown) and was terrified every show. The experience gave me new respect for the art of acting!

Dan WolfGovernance Committee
How did you first arrive at CCTC?  25 years ago when my oldest daughter, Stella, first became involved with the theater.

What is your favorite intermission snack?: M&M’s

What is your favorite musical?: Pirates of Penzance

Michele Clark
What is your most meaningful HJT experience?: Seeing our daughter Catie on stage for the first time (Francine Freckle in Freckleface Strawberry at age 9!)

What is your favorite Musical?: Pippin.

What drives you to give so much to the theatre? When I thought about the CCTC|HJT community’s warm welcome to us as new members and ongoing encouragement of our kids, I realized how important it is to help the theatre continue to play these roles for the next generation of families like ours. The theatre quickly became an important part of our family after we moved to the Cape full time a few years ago. Since then, our daughters have been on stage, worked as members of stage and production crews, and taken a string of classes. Their experiences in multi-generational casts and being trusted with significant responsibilities have been hallmarks of their time at CCTC|HJT, and such an important part of their growing up.

Alison Mahoney
What is your most meaningful HJT experience?: Having a dream about the stairs to the second floor being rainbow with

 

the lyrics to Rainbow Connection and getting my friends to help me create them and so much more!

Who is  your ESSENTIAL  jester: Andrea Healy

What drives you to give so much to the theatre? I grew up at the theatre. I learned so much from the faculty, made life-long friends, and have a career in the arts.

Rob ZappleGovernance Committee
Who is your ESSENTIAL  jester:  My sister Betsy Lowell – she became the Jester when she put on the costume. Next to her would be Lisa Canto – also, terrific Jester.

Who is your favorite fictional character: Jim Hawkins – ‘Treasure Island’

What was the first show you ever saw (or performed in/worked on) at HJT? Mr. Popper’s Penguins – 1962 – I played “Columbus,” the oldest (tallest) child penguin. My first lines were “Ork, Gork, Gork.” All created through an improv session taught by Betty Bobp (although we did not call it that — the term improv, short for improvisational theatre, had not yet been coined) where we had a mock fight between the two oldest penguins.

What drives you to give so much to the theatre? I grew up in the HJT and have been deeply involved with live theatre my entire life. It is important for children, young adults and adults to learn communication skills, cooperation, collaboration, artistic and creative expression, tolerance for others, working with a group to accomplish what cannot be done alone – good daily lessons for anyone involved in live theatre, or, life.