Before becoming a performance space, Grasso’s Magic Theatre was a cold storage facility, the building itself more than 100 years old and the stage area once housing an industrial freezer. After purchasing the building in 2001, Joe Grasso spent his nights and weekends renovating it, plying his abilities as a carpenter to refurbish and recycle unwanted building materials and furniture, from old theater curtains to the wooden pews used for seating. His son, Michael Grasso, was just starting a career in magic at the time, which recently culminated in a top-10 appearance on America’s Got Talent in 2010.
The building that would eventually become Merriam Theater opened as the Sam S. Shubert Theater in 1918, honoring the famous, theater-owning Shubert family’s youngest member, who died tragically in a train accident a decade earlier. Following the fortunes of its fellow theaters, the Merriam's inaugural years saw success with toe-tapping Gershwin musicals and spine-tingling Shakespearean performances by John Barrymore. As vaudeville petered out and the country slid into a depression, the theater struggled to pay the bills through more tawdry means, hosting burlesque shows and letting patrons see the stage without its curtain. The University of Arts eventually bought the building in 1972, and restored the venue to its former glory as host to the country's finest performers.
Just steps from South Street in Philadelphia, Society Hill Playhouse showcases some of the best and most fun theatrical productions in the city. Rather than focusing on high art or avant-garde performances, Society Hill Playhouse creates accessible productions for a wider non-theatergoing crowd. Popular shows like Lafferty's Wake, Nunsense, Schoolhouse Rock Live and Menopause: The Musical have been attracting audiences since the theater space opened in 1960. The building itself is its own spectacle, having been built over a century ago, and inside, the playhouse houses two performance spaces. Downstairs, the cabaret-style Red Room seats 99 guests, while the more traditional theater upstairs can accommodate 250. An on-site bar serves beverages during performances.