Save Highland Farm: The Journey ACT I
by Susan Welsh
“A hundred million miracles are happening every day. . .” These words, penned by Oscar Hammerstein II, are exemplified in the optimistic spirit of The Oscar Hammerstein Theater and Education Center’s journey to preserve one of our cultural landmarks. It’s the mission of The Center to ensure that “the sun will keep rising over the eastern hill”— the gently sloping hill of Highland Farm on East Road, that is.
Since its original purchase in 1940 by Oscar and his wife Dorothy, “Highland Farm” has embodied the creative inspiration behind a multitude of Rodgers and Hammerstein Broadway smash hits. It’s in this space, in this house, on this farm that phrases like “you’ve got to have a dream” and “climb every mountain,” were inspired and brought to life— becoming part of Broadway history forever.
If ever there was a time for the optimistic spirit to be celebrated, it is now. Hammerstein’s words resonated with audiences in the 1940s because the country was grappling with racial division, economic strife and lightning-fast change. His music is as relevant and topical today as it was then.
The presence of Highland Farm in our community is deeply significant. It is an important reminder of the power of creativity and the soul-reaching capacity it has to not only entertain, but also inform, influence, and even heal an audience. To honor our creative forebearers and the space where their brilliance thrived is to honor part of the American cultural landscape. Preserving this legacy is critically important. It provides future generations with an historical resource that enlightens, enriches and inspires.
The journey to transform Highland Farm into a museum and educational center has been a long and winding one—filled with challenges, roadblocks and triumphs. At the heart of it all, fundraising is the key to generating the financial resources needed to make the museum and education center a reality.
As of this writing The Center awaits word on whether or not a nomination for a 5 million dollar matching grant from the state of Pennsylvania will be will be signed by Governor Wolf. In typical Hammerstein fashion, Will Hammerstein says he is hopeful. “That would be a miracle,” he adds.
The Center continues to plan unique and special fundraising events like, Broadway World Cabaret Award Nominee Benefit Show Oscar’s Home! – held this past March at the Player’s Club in New York City, An Enchanted Evening which debuted at the Bristol Riverside Theatre in Pennsylvania, the screening of JoAnn Young’s documentary “Out of My Dreams” and the “docu-musical” An Enchanted Evening: A Night With Oscar Hammerstein II starring Doreen Taylor and Davis Gaines which opens December 8th in New York City.
A very special event is being lined up to commemorate the 75th anniversary of the opening of Oklahoma! on March 30, 2018. This critically acclaimed show, Rodgers and Hammerstein’s first collaboration, was ground-breaking, and ushered in a new kind of musical theatre that emphasized the integration of script, song, and dance to tell a story. It also influenced future generations of Broadway composers from Steven Sondheim to Lerner and Loewe. The Center’s commemorative event is sure to be a hot ticket! Stay tuned for a formal announcement to be made here once the final details are in place.