About the Project
Shearer Cottage began hosting guests in Oak Bluffs, Martha’s Vineyard, in 1912. The cottage, opened by Charles and Henrietta Shearer, provided a vacation spot for African Americans visiting the island. The cottage grew and expanded its guest capacity. Sadie Shearer, Charles and Henrietta’s daughter, took over operations and continued to successfully the business. In the 1940s, Sadie’s niece Liz White, decided to establish an African American theater company. From the 1940’s until the 1980s, the company-produced shows were a popular summer event in Oak Bluffs. The mostly amateur performers put on a variety of shows including: The Women, Lysistrata, Ana Lucasta, Rain, Angel Street, Othello and West Side Story.
The Shearer Summer Theater was the brainchild of Elizabeth “Liz” White, a dresser on Broadway, who directed, and even bought a two story house to act as the stage in the 1950s for the plays s in Martha’s Vineyard. In 1946, Liz White staged The Women, at the Forest House in New York City.