In 1980, Open Hand Theater was born out of the Seedling Theater of Oneonta. Its first home was a small studio space in an abandoned warehouse area, later known as Armory Square. The theater moved to Plymouth Church in 1985, initiating the first of a series of collaborations. From its earliest days, Open Hand has had a commitment to community involvement and development, education and social concerns. Early productions included the Imagination Celebration Parade, winter pageants and children’s touring performances. The theater has worked with the Onondaga Nation School and the Skomorokh Theater of Siberia.
Hand in Hand, Open Hand's children's theater program, began in 1989, and our hallmark summer program, Circus Camp, in 1991. Open Hand Theater's commitment to children in upstate New York is extensive. Our collaborations with the Syracuse City School District have brought unique opportunities for young people, and our educational touring shows educate and delight children around subjects such as literacy, science, cross-cultural education and character development.
In 1999 the theater purchased the castle on North Salina Street and opened the International Mask and Puppet Museum. Open Hand Theater conducts innovative collaborations and partnerships. Past collaborations have included productions of "Sleeping Beauty" with Syracuse Ballet, "Amahl and the Night Visitors" with Plymouth Congregational Church, and unforgettable production of Mozart's "The Magic Flute" with Syracuse Opera.
In 2014, Open Hand's founder, Geoff Navias, retired, as did teaching artists Leslie Archer and Andrea Martin. In 2015, Peter Fekete, Andrea Wandersee and Caitlin Friedburg joined the theater to manage the transition and ensure the organization's mission continued to thrive. In Spring 2017— facing the castle's lack of accessibility and maintenance costs — the board sold the Castle. It is now the home of a vibrant Buddhist community. Open Hand moved to temporary space, and in April 2019 moved to the theater complex at the Redhouse Art Center.