Philanthropic theater group in New York City celebrates 100 years

Joelle Garguilo Image
Monday, April 15, 2024
NYC philanthropic theater group celebrates 100 years
Joelle Garguilo has more on Blue Hill Troupe as it celebrates its 100th anniversary.

NEW YORK (WABC) -- A philanthropic theater group in New York City is celebrating its 100th anniversary.

The story behind Blue Hill Troupe reads like that of an old-time move: in the heart of summer 1924 in Blue Hill, Maine, a mom and dad were trying to keep their kids busy.

And they had the help of an English nanny.

"So she decided let's do a show to keep the kids active and involved," said Winthrop Rutherford, 100th anniversary co-chair. "And they were having so much fun doing it, that their parents said, well wait a minute, what about us."

The result was an amateur production of HMS Pinafore and the birth of Blue Hill Troupe.

"And they all had so much fun doing it, they decided well New York can be pretty dull in the winter, why don't we move it to New York," Rutherford said. "And ever since then, the troupe has put on an annual production of Gilbert and Sullivan."

One-hundred years later they have added more people. What started as one family has now grown to close to 600 members.

"I would say the group has broadened enormously in terms of the diversity of its membership, and the sort of openness and inclusivity of the organization," Rutherford said.

There are now more instruments, more production and a purpose beyond performing: giving back.

"We charge a little bit extra to our friends and relatives who come to the show, the net profits goes to charity," Rutherford said.

When adjusted for inflation over the years, the group says they have given over $10 million to New York City charities from the annual productions.

And the group has preserved its history over time with much of it kept in boxes.

"There's a lot of family life to the troupe, I mean, people become best friends," Rutherford said. "We actually have in this year's production one family that has three generations involved."

Family is a common theme and over 100 couples have met and married.

"I think if you love New York City, if you love theater, and all the things that make both New York and theater exciting, like this is a great group for that," Caprone Levine said. "We do what we love. And when we do that, well, we make a lot of money, and then we give it to people who need it more than we do."

And as for the future?

"We have really looked at this centennial as not only a celebration of the last 100 years, but as a launch into our next 100," said president Betsy Militello.


* Get Eyewitness News Delivered

* More New York City news

* Send us a news tip

* Download the abc7NY app for breaking news alerts

* Follow us on YouTube

Submit a tip or story idea to Eyewitness News

Have a breaking news tip or an idea for a story we should cover? Send it to Eyewitness News using the form below. If attaching a video or photo, terms of use apply.