The Man Behind the Curtain
In his 35th year at Riverside Theatre, Allen Cornell is both the business and creative force behind its success
Allen Cornell reads a script of a possible future production. In 35 years, Cornell has worked on well over 200 Riverside productions.
By nature, Allen Cornell is a builder. It’s in his genes. For four generations the Cornell family was made up of general contractors who built scores of the stately homes in Philadelphia and on the Main Line, as well as many of the city’s landmark buildings, including the historic restoration of Independence Hall.
Allen Cornell III took a different path. After college he headed to a theater in northern New Jersey and later into New York City where he worked on scenic design and lighting. In the early 1980s he moved to Vero Beach, landing work as artistic director at Riverside Theatre. This year, Cornell is starting his 35th season at Riverside, now serving in the CEO capacity on the business side as well as its creative leader as producing artistic director.
As a kid growing up in a family of builders in Newtown Square, Pennsylvania, Cornell says the garage was always full of tools.
“I liked to make stuff,” Cornell says. “My dad would have a load of scrap lumber dumped in the driveway and my friends and I would haul it into the woods and build very cool tree houses.”