Gamut® Theatre is the combined company of Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre and Harrisburg Shakespeare Company. Our mission is to tell classic stories in new and exciting ways for the entertainment and enlightenment of children and adults alike.
Each year Gamut presents approximately 250 performances to 30,000 people. Moreover, 20,000 students per year enjoy our theatre school classes, workshops, residencies, and shows. Since our inception in 1993, Gamut has cumulatively reached over 500,000 children and adults through our touring and educational programs and is consistently voted “Best Drama/Theatre Classes” as awarded by Central Penn Parent magazine.
We have been recognized by the press and the public for the quality of our productions, the breadth of our programs, our reach into all segments of the community, and our ability to keep classic stories relevant and alive. Gamut Theatre is an Educational Improvement Organization as approved by the PA DCED and is an approved Arts in Education Roster Artist through the PA Council on the Arts.
Gamut is a member organization of the Shakespeare Theatre Association, Theatre Communications Group, National New Plays Network, and a founding company of the Harrisburg Area Theatre Alliance.
Melissa and Clark Nicholson founded Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre (PHP) and Harrisburg Shakespeare Company (HSC) in 1991 and 1994, respectively. The companies merged to become Gamut Theatre Group (GTG), “Home of the Classic Story,” in 2001, combining their missions to focus on presenting and preserving classic plays, classic stories, and classic ideas. A mission based around the classics necessitates an unwavering focus on educational outreach, and GTG is proud of the fact that its educational initiatives rival the size and scope of theatre companies nearly ten times our budgetary size. All members of GTG’s full-time staff form our Core Company of actors and have professional theatre credits. Additionally, all staff members are involved in teaching in the Gamut Theatre Academy, which annually offers 15-20 classes and camps, for nearly 500 students in the greater Harrisburg area.
In 2005, GTG was approved as an artist-in-residence company with the Pennsylvania Council of the Arts and as an Educational Improvement Organization with the PA Department of Community and Economic Development. Since roster approval, GTG has put together many different residency experiences, taking them to schools in urban and rural districts, ranging from large public high schools to small private elementary schools.
Gamut’s improvisation troupe, which would eventually be called TMI Improv, was formed in 2007. They have since become a fixture in the burgeoning improv scene in Harrisburg, performing most regularly on the Gamut stage and at the Midtown Scholar bookstore. TMI Improv has branched out into educational outreach, leading workshops for both children and adults that stress teamwork and the value of listening to your colleagues and reacting in the moment.
In 2009, a group of long-time Gamut artists and former Core Company members formed the Stage Door Series (SDS) ensemble. The mission of SDS is to offer diverse, exciting, classically-themed programming with simpler technical elements. All SDS artists donate their time and talent allowing 100% of its ticket sales to supplement the Gamut coffers.
In 2010, the Popcorn Hat Players Young Acting Company performed its inaugural production of Snow White. Each spring, this group of 40-50 students ages 6-18 performs a full-length play, giving the students a professional theatre experience to supplement the acting classes they may take at Gamut or elsewhere.
To answer the call for students who wanted to learn more and be completely immersed in theatre education, we formed the Gamut Theatre Summer Academy (GTSA) in 2011. GTSA’s philosophy mirrors that of Gamut Theatre: a commitment to keeping classic stories alive and relevant through stage presentation, treating the artists who create this work with respect, and holding staff and artists to a high standard of professionalism. The courses offered at GTSA reflect the values of Gamut: Acting, Voice, Movement, Improvisation, Creative Writing, and Rehearsal/Performance.
After 21 years of renting space in Strawberry Square, Gamut bought the former First Church of God, a historic building no longer in use; and began a capital campaign to renovate the space into a permanent home that would meet the demand for Gamut’s growing programs. On November 6, 2015, we unveiled the beautiful Select Medical Mainstage at the New Gamut Theatre, 15 N. 4th Street in downtown Harrisburg. In addition to the $1.5 million contributed to date, 170 volunteers donated 7,800 hours to make Phase I of the project possible. Plans and fundraising are now in progress for Phase II – a renovation of the back half of the building into the Gamut Theatre Education Center, including the Alexander Grass Second Stage, which will host Popcorn Hat Players Children’s Theatre and numerous student and community performances.
Gamut Theatre Group uses what has come to be known as the actor/manager model. A structure borrowed from Shakespeare's company 400 years ago, our actors also fulfill various administrative and technical occupations during the day that make our organization run. They build sets, write grants, stitch costumes, run the box office, advertise, teach classes, and even clean the bathrooms. Without them, Gamut would not be here today.
Our small full-time company juggles professional acting engagements year-round with comprehensive teaching duties and an additional administrative or technical responsibility within the company. Our main stage shows also feature the talents of additional professional artists, local and otherwise. We do it all on a minimal budget and with smiles on our faces. Gamut has consistently operated in the black since its inception as Popcorn Hat Players in the early nineties. We consider ourselves deeply fortunate to have the opportunity do what we love full- time, professionally, in a city and region in which many of us grew up, and that all of us call home.