350 Morphy Avenue, Fairhope, AL 36532 // 251-928-4366

History

historyhead
Community theatre in Fairhope dates back to a group called The Paupaukewian Minstrels in 1912. The Fairhope Little Theatre was founded in 1935, followed by the Baldwin County Theatre Arts Association in 1952. Theatre 98 was founded in 1960, when existing theatre groups on the Eastern Shore merged to form a new organization. Betty Jo Wolff, the founder of Page and Palette bookstore, was the first president of Theatre 98, and remained active in the group for many years. Other founding volunteers included Vernon and Nancy Head, Annie (Butch) Sheldon, Dan Isherwood, Martha Hill, and Claude Evans.

In those early years Theatre 98 performed in various places around Fairhope, including Comings Hall on what was then the Organic School campus (now the Faulkner State Community College campus), the auditorium at the old high school on Church Street, St. James Episcopal Church parish hall, the Grand Hotel, and the park on the bay. Although people frequently assume that we took our name from the number of seats in our current playhouse, the name actually comes from Highway 98, the main artery of the Eastern Shore, and predates our occupation of our current home by many years.

In the 1970’s the group became dormant, but in November of 1982 we were re-activated under the leadership of Nancy Head, who continued as a guiding force of the theatre until her death in 1998. We were incorporated in 1983 as Theatre 98 of Baldwin County, and performances resumed at the Fairhope Civic Center and the Eastern Shore Art Center. In 1985, Theatre 98 moved to our current space on the corner of Church and Morphy streets, sharing it at first with Sherilyn McNally’s children’s theatre and the Literacy Council. On August 1, 1990, we signed a lease with the City of Fairhope, the owner of the building, and since then have enjoyed the luxury of a theatre home.

Our theatre building, formerly known as the Church Street Playhouse, has a fascinating history of its own. Built during the 1920’s as the First Baptist Church of Fairhope, it was later used as Fairhope’s Satellite Courthouse. In the early eighties, local theatre legend Tom Pocase converted the building to an intimate, three-quarter round theater, where his company, Theatre 8:15, specialized in musicals. The new theater was dedicated on March 25, 1983.

Today we work hard, in partnership with our landlord, the City of Fairhope, to maintain and improve our beautiful old building. Since Theatre 98 took over the space we have re-modeled the lobby, installed a patio and new landscaping, added a wheelchair ramp and wheelchair seating in the auditorium, and made the restroom wheelchair-accessible. In 2011 we were awarded historic plaques by both the Baldwin County Historic Development Commission and the Fairhope Historic Preservation Committee, and proudly display them on our Morphy Avenue façade.

As our membership has grown over the years, we have added more performances of each production, going from four in 1987 to our current nine. In addition, we offer free admittance to the final dress rehearsal for Fairhope’s senior citizens and students.

Click here for a list of all of our past shows

Awards

First Annual Award for an Arts Organization

2004

Mobile Arts Council

2009

Alabama Conference of Theatre State Festival
Best Production – The Trip to Bountiful
Best Actor – Will Dobson>Best Actress – Leslie Johnson
Outstanding Achievement in Direction – Jonne Thornton
Outstanding Achievement in Technical Production – Jonne Thornton

Southeastern Theatre Conference Community Theatre Festival
Best Actress – Leslie Johnson

2011

Baldwin County Historic Development Commission – Historical Marker
Fairhope Historic Preservation Committee – Historical Marker

Theatre 98 is a Fairhope institution that increasingly draws talent and audience from all over the Greater Mobile Bay Area, a fact that was recognized by the Mobile Arts Council in 2004, when we were awarded their first annual Arts Organization Award.

Click here to see the recipients of our Student Service Award.