While the Ellington Fellowship Playhouse has only been around since 1984, the building has a colorful past. It's been a part of the cultural and historical tapestry of Central Virginia since it was built in 1929 (or 1903 depending on your research).
We do know it was the second original southern little theater and the first in Virginia. The building served as the community arts center until the Fine Arts Center was built in 1955. Then the Masons took over, and it was known as the Hill City Lodge.
In 1984 four investors saw its potential, formed a partnership, bought it and started the Ellington Fellowship Playhouse. Two of them are still active in our organization Howard Langhorne, and James Arnold. Music wasn't the first thing we did....The Ellington Fellowship Playhouse started as a true playhouse featuring dinner theater. After a few years the focus changed to music and Ellis Marsalis kicked off the new programming.
The Ellington is dedicated to jazz great Duke Ellington. Duke's music encompassed jazz, blues, classical and spiritual genres and brought people of all backgrounds together. It was that incredible accomplishment that inspired the Ellington's founders. Today you'll find a mix of musical styles on the Ellington stage, and legendary performers including Doc Watson, Chuck Mangione, Taj Mahal, Junior Walker, Delbert McClinton, The Persuasions, Roy Buchanan, Charlie Byrd, the Dirty Dozen, Leon Redbone, Commander Cody, Jimmy Thackery, John Hammond, Coco Montoya, Duke Robillard and many many more.