Matthews Playhouse: Enriching lives through performing arts and education for a quarter century

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Matthews Playhouse was started in 1995 by a group of parents, theater professionals, and educators who wanted to create a theater where young people could both perform in and view quality theatrical productions.

Their first production, Alice in Wonderland, was alone proof of their idea’s importance.  Over 100 children auditioned for a total of 50 parts.  That year, Matthews Playhouse put on two productions during the school year and one during the summer.  Since its inception in 1995, Matthews Playhouse has grown into a full-fledged community theater with a full season of plays, year-round classes and a ten-week series of summer camps.

“We do two very distinct things,” says Administrative Manager Marie-Michele Darcy.  “On the one hand, we have arts education programming for children from four or five years of age and up through senior year of high school.”  The “full-year” classes run for roughly the duration of the school year beginning in mid-September. Instruction continues through mid-February, when students transition into preparation for the School of Theater’s season of shows, where enrolled children are cast in one of four productions, both musical and “straight” plays, to be performed in the spring for an invited audience.

Also falling under Matthews Playhouse’s educational umbrella is their ten-week season of summer camps for children ages four through eighteen.  While full-time students generally commit for the entirety of a school year, summer camps are a bit more relaxed, offering rising kindergarteners through graduating high school seniors the chance to experience the performing arts.  Each week-long camp concludes in a shared performance at the conclusion of camp on Friday.

“The other piece is the Mainstage season,” continues Darcy.  “The education piece is separate and distinct from the Mainstage season that we have.”  The Mainstage season is composed of five publically-auditioned plays that feature both locals and theatrical talent from all across the Charlotte region.  Matthews Playhouse tries to offer something for everyone throughout the main stage season: usually, two children’s shows, a family-oriented holiday show, and two shows geared more toward teens and adults.

Matthews Playhouse is currently producing Pinocchio, directed by Sidney Horton.

“We try to provide something for everyone with the main stage season,” says Darcy, “to engage as much of the community as possible.”  For example, the 2019-2020 season opened in October with Madeline, a dramatic interpretation of the beloved children’s book.  For the holidays, they presented It’s a Wonderful Life, based on the classic Jimmy Stewart film.  They just closed a very successful and well-attended run of the musical Mamma Mia directed by Billy Ensley and are gearing up for the classic Gershwin musical Guys and Dolls in June.


Right now at Matthews Playhouse, you have the chance to catch a performance of the family-friendly Pinocchio.  Directed by Sidney Horton, the production is recommended for children ages five and up takes a new twist on a classic tale.  


Many of the mainstage children’s shows are also well-attended by public and private schools in the community.  Field trips to see Pinocchio are already underway, and Darcy expects that they will host about five thousand schoolchildren between the twenty-first and the twenty-eighth.  You can still snag tickets to see one of Pinocchio’s two remaining public shows on Saturday, February 29th or Sunday, March 1st.

Now in its twenty-fifth year, Matthews Playhouse has become a fixture in the community and surrounding areas.  “You forget when you have something right in your face every day what it means,” reflects Founder and Artistic Director June Bayless, who also directed that first performance of Alice in Wonderland a quarter of a century ago.  “Being a part of the arts – there are so many children who it brings them out of their shell.  We’re not here for the child that thinks they’re a star. We’re here for the child who can’t stand up in front of the class and give a book report or compete in a spelling bee.  We’ve had so many children whose parents have told me what a difference it’s made in their lives.”

Matthews Playhouse is currently selling tickets for Pinocchio, which runs through March 1, and Guys and Dolls, which will be performed from June 12 – 28.  They are also currently enrolling for half-day and full-day summer camps in June, July, and August.  From half-day “Pete the Cat” for ages four through six to full-day “Musical Theater Intensive” for rising tenth through twelfth graders, Matthews Playhouse has a camp for every age and interest.  Register by March 15 to take advantage of their 10% “early bird” discount.


Learn more about Matthews Playhouse, purchase tickets and register for camps online:

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Mary Beth Foster
Mary Beth Foster works part time as an essay specialist at Charlotte Latin School and full time as a mom to her eight-year-old daughter Hannah and her six-year-old son Henry. Prior to having children, she worked as a high school English teacher for nine years. Most recently, she chaired the English department at Queen's Grant High School. She and her husband have lived in Mint Hill with their children and their cats since 2011. Email: