Eighty years ago today -- June 29, 1931 -- Dorothy Gish and Rollo Peters took the stage in a nearly century-old barn off the Post Road that had been converted into a rustic theater.

They were the stars, the show was "The Streets of New York" and the Westport Country Playhouse was born. Since opening, the theater has evolved over the years, most notably with a couple of major renovations.

The town has declared today "Westport Country Playhouse Day," and a birthday party open to the public is planned for 11 a.m. in the playhouse garden. It will include remarks by theater and government officials, a champagne toast and, of course, a birthday cake.

At 80 locations in Westport and surrounding towns, the playhouse will release 80 balloons marked with the theater's logo. Each will carry a voucher redeemable for two tickets to the comedy "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" on July 13, 14 or 15, theater officials said

Built in 1835 as a tannery to make leather for hats, the wooden building became a steam-powered cider mill in 1880, then was abandoned in the 1920s, the theater said.

As the Westport Country Playhouse, it initially was a tryout house for Broadway transfers. Over the course of eight decades it has featured stars of stage and screen on its way to becoming one of New England's premier summer-stock theaters.

The third of five plays this season, "Lips Together, Teeth Apart" opens July 12 and runs through July 30.