The Square One Theatre Company, a nonprofit theatre, was founded in 1990 by Executive Producer Barbara Cairney and Artistic Director Tom Holehan. Employed by the Stratford Library, Holehan had begun a theatre program of staged readings there in 1985. With Cairney, they recognized an opportunity to create a new professional theatre in Stratford Center when the town’s former movie house was bought and renovated as a legitimate theatre by the Scottish Rite Building Corporation. Following negotiations with the new owners, a Square One Theatre staff was assembled. Money to begin production was raised through donations from Stratford and Milford individuals, companies and corporations. A volunteer organization, The Friends of Square One Theatre, was also established. Square One’s first production, A Walk In The Woods, was praised and supported by the original Broadway producer, Lucille Lortel, in addition to receiving numerous honors in regional and national theatre competitions.
Square One Theatre is now in its 32nd anniversary season. Each season has seen success, critically and financially. Many performances have been sold out and the subscriber base is now over 1,000. The Readers Theatre Showcase, Square One‘s second venue located at the Stratford Library, offers free readings of new, experimental and non-commercial plays, during the summer. The theatre also presents these staged readings in many area libraries and other venues. In addition, Square One supports SquareWrights, a local group of area playwrights, helping them showcase their work at the Stratford Library.
With the availability of funding an educational program, to develop audiences for the future has evolved. For over eleven seasons, the theatre presented special morning performances of productions to Stratford and Bunnell High School students, offering teacher guides and post-performance discussions with the students. In the 2004–2005 season, Square One began performing plays in the libraries of each school. This has allowed for a more intimate experience while at the same time enriching each school’s curriculum. These educational programs have been subsidized over the years originally by United Technologies and, currently, by People’s United Bank. In 2005, Square One Theatre received “The Friend of Education” Award from the Stratford Board of Education for its work with the schools. In 2007, the theatre gave birth to the Square One Teen Theatre, a summer company of area teenagers who produce, direct and perform their own productions. With the support of the Scottish Rite Building Corporation and The Milford Bank, the teen theatre has already produced a number of plays each summer. Artistic Director Tom Holehan was the recipient of the very first Outstanding Artist Award in 2006 from then Mayor James R. Miron. The Stratford Community Fund presented its Lighthouse Award to the Square One Theatre Company in 2010.
In 2008, Barbara Cairney resigned as Executive Producer and Richard Pheneger became the theatre’s General Manager. All of the actors and artistic staff at Square One Theatre receive a nominal stipend for their work. The theatre is conservatively managed and is fiscally sound with a small endowment. Individual ticket prices and season subscriptions do not cover all of the theatre’s expenses. However, to fully survive, it still relies on contributions from corporations, area businesses, single ticket buyers and subscribers. The Square One Theatre Company takes pride in keeping ticket prices affordable and offering live theatre that is intellectually stimulating as well as entertaining to our expanding audiences.