On January 12, 1971, with the words "Boy, the way Glenn Miller played" soaring through airwaves, America was introduced to one of the most important and influential series ever to air, "All in the Family". Households across the nation came to know Archie, Edith, Gloria, and Meathead as if they were their own neighbors. What most did not know is that during the summer months, Jean Stapleton, who played the lovable Edith, retreated to South Central, Pennsylvania to perform at the Totem Pole Playhouse. The Emmy-winning actress' late husband, William H. Putch, ran the theatre for 30 years from 1954-1983. Totem Pole is set to open its 2013 summer with another Emmy-winner from the same iconic series in SIMPLY: Sally Struthers, An intimate evening with the Emmy-winning actress in words, song, stories, and laughter.
The "All in the Family" connection began with Totem Pole Playhouse when, then Broadway, film, and television actress Stapleton married Putch and made her first appearance at The Playhouse in 1958. Stapleton worked at The Playhouse for every summer after they were married. In a June 1, 2000 interview, Stapleton said "[Totem Pole] was very dear to our hearts. It was nice to be home and having a theatre to work in. We had kids and that made it quite nice." Both of their children Pamela and John were born in Chambersburg, PA and grew up acting and working at the famous summer theatre. The Putch children must have learned a thing or two working with the family all those summers. John Putch has gone on to enjoy a career in Hollywood as an actor, director of film and television, and a film writer and producer. Pamela Putch is now a Senior Vice President for Production at NBC Universal.
Stapleton's daughter, Pamela Putch, tries to return to Totem Pole at least once a Summer for a show and still remains very active in supporting the efforts of the current administration at The Playhouse. "Sally Struthers appearance at Totem Pole this Spring is just another testament to the fact that Totem Pole is still an appealing venue for top level professional talent," says Ms. Putch.
Her brother, John Putch, has been more involved with The Playhouse of late. In 2010, he directed Neil Simon's 45 Seconds From Broadway for the 60th Anniversary Season. He also produced, wrote, directed ROUTE 30 and ROUTE 30, TOO!. The first two installments of a film trilogy shot in the area in and around Chambersburg, Gettysburg, and the Totem Pole Playhouse. He says "Sally Struthers is a theatrical treasure! Can't wait to see her at Totem Pole this summer."
Nestled in the Caledonia State Park about 13 miles west of Gettysburg and 10 miles east of Chambersburg on U.S. 30, Totem Pole Playhouse has become home to an enclave of professional performing artists including Stapleton, Curtis Armstrong, Harry Groener, Henry Strozier, John Ritter, Barbara Feldman, Sandy Dennis. Totem Pole alumni also include top Broadway theatre artists Jayne Houdyshell (Wicked, Follies, Well, Bye-Bye Birdie), Katrina Yaukey (War Horse, Cabaret, Company, Sweeney Todd, Victor/Victoria). Other popular actresses appearing at The Playhouse are national Broadway touring Meredith Kaye Clark (Wicked), Traci Lyn Thomas (Les Miserable) and regional theater and Helen Hayes Award winner Jenna Sokolowski.
Now The Playhouse will add Sally Struthers to that illustrious company of Totem Pole Playhouse veterans. Best known for her role as Gloria Stivic. Struthers has enjoyed an exciting career herself. From her role alongside Stapleton on "All in the Family", to groundbreaking films like Five Easy Pieces with Jack Nicholson, and her Broadway roles in Annie, Grease, and the female version of The Odd Couple opposite Rita Moreno, she has become an integral part of American culture. The opportunity to bring her one-woman show was one that Struthers welcomed with open arms. "I was first told about the Totem Pole Playhouse forty years ago by Jean Stapleton after I was cast to play her daughter on "All In The Family". Finally, not only am I going to get to see it, I'm going to get to perform there. Mama would be proud." Struthers says.