To keep vital the value, spirit, and tradition of fine summer theatre in Tamworth and to provide a venue for and to promote varied cultural activities within the region.
Alice and Francis Cleveland
The year was 1931. It was the first season of The Barnstormers, founded by Francis and Alice Cleveland and Ed Goodnow. Francis, the youngest child of President Grover Cleveland, was already pursuing a career on Broadway when The Barnstormers made its debut in the family’s summer hometown of Tamworth, New Hampshire.
The original troupe was composed mostly of young actors – recent graduates from colleges including Harvard, Wellesley, Radcliffe and Amherst. The first director was Goodnow, a graduate of Harvard and George Pierce Baker’s “47 Workshop” which later became the renowned Yale School of Drama.
The name “The Barnstormers” was a natural choice as it described exactly what the theatre troupe did – barnstorming from town to town, opening on Monday in Tamworth and then touring towns in Maine and New Hampshire during the week, returning for a final Saturday evening performance in Tamworth at the Tamworth Gardens – a former boxing venue where the audience was often greeted by former First Lady Frances Cleveland dressed in a formal gown. It was an ambitious project as the locations included Sugar Hill, Wolfeboro, Conway, Holderness, and Harrison and Poland Spring, Maine – long hauls even today.
After four years of touring, The Barnstormers bought the old Kimball’s Store on Tamworth’s Main Street in 1935 and converted it into a theatre. World War II brought an abrupt end to barnstorming. The theatre did its part to keep the home fires burning by showing movies, and, after the war, the building became the troupe’s permanent home.
With many updates (like air conditioning!), the theatre today continues to provide the region with what many consider the best live summer theatre in the state. It is one of only three Equity theatres in NH – a professional designation which separates the company from community-based theatres. This summer actors will travel from across the country – most hail from New York City – to participate in the region’s longest running summer theatre.
Tamworth is a small village surrounded by pastures and the dramatic backdrop of the White Mountains. After years of traveling to various towns in New Hampshire and Maine, in 1935 The Barnstormers bought and converted a Tamworth Main Street store to a theatre. This building remains The Barnstormers’ home but has been updated to include a 28-foot proscenium stage, 282 comfortable seats, air-conditioning, and superb acoustics. The theatre is handicapped accessible and has a hearing-assistance loop with headsets available. The façade remains mostly unchanged.
During the off-season, the facility is available to rent for concerts, drama and dance performances, talks and community events. The theatre is also offered to the many local performing arts groups free-of-charge.
Over 40 professional actors from around the country join an experienced core company (some of whom have performed on The Barnstormers stage for over 50 years) to become a part of The Barnstormers family. The majority are members of the Actors’ Equity Association, many have worked together for years, and the younger ones enjoy a rigorous theatre training experience in a highly supportive environment.
Directors, designers, stage managers and theatre technicians come together for an intense season of nonstop creative action. Our audience is filled with year-round and summer residents along with visitors, who come to enjoy great professional theatre in a historic New Hampshire setting.
During June, July and August, The Barnstormers feature the gems of American and British theatre. “Ghost Train” and “Our Town” are the two most frequently produced shows in The Barnstormers history. Each summer musicals, an Agatha Christie or similar suspense/mystery, as well as a modern drama are included in the summer line-up. But humor prevails as our audience loves to laugh.
While the plays change each season, The Barnstormers’ commitment to provide its audience with great professional theatre remains as strong as at its opening in 1931.
Read what people are saying about The Barnstormers
Damn Yankees was a fabulous way to start the 2019 season. Great musical performances in the small theater with the comfortable seats that I truly enjoy. Looking forward to the rest of the season.
Great summer theater with returning host of cast and crew members. I’ve been coming here for years. Starts the season with a musical and then has a new play every few weeks throughout the summer.
What a perfect way to enjoy one’s summer in NH. The production was first class in every way and done with such a light and witty touch as only true professionals can deliver. I will be sure to return for more!
Rent The Barnstormers Theatre
Thinking of holding an event in the Tamworth area?
The 292-seat theatre, with its intimate atmosphere and great acoustics, is available to rent in the spring and fall. Great for music, dance, drama, lectures – anything requiring a fine stage and comfortable seats.
The Barnstormers Theatre is available to rent if you and your group are looking for a wonderful place to meet or perform. Overnight accommodations and fabulous dining are nearby.
If you are thinking of a corporate retreat or presentation, please call (603) 323-8661 for more information.
Contact The Barnstormers
Who We Are
Staff and Board of Directors
The Barnstormers Theatre board of directors is pleased and excited to welcome Joe Longthorne as Interim Artistic Director. Joe plans to honor the fine heritage of the theatre and bring a fresh perspective with diverse, socially relevant productions to our stage. The Barnstormers will be celebrating its 91st season this summer with an exciting lineup of performances, and patron health and safety in mind.
Joe’s infectious enthusiasm, energy and extensive entrepreneurial background in theatrical management were the key drivers in the board’s selection process. In addition, Joe’s finance background and experience in production, marketing, strategic planning, acting and equity negotiations bring a robust skill set to the theatre, ensuring The Barnstormers is positioned to be artistically relevant moving forward.
“I am so very humbled and thrilled to be appointed interim artistic director of this historic American theater.” said Joe. “I made my professional debut onstage at The Barnstormers Theatre in 2010 in a summer production of A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To The Forum, a production which also featured another former artistic director, Cope Murray. I have quite literally grown up at BST over the years, personally and professionally. My predecessor Bob Shea, cast me in that first production of Forum, and my great task ahead is continuing the strong traditions of his wonderful stewardship, while envisioning a new path forward for the future of live theater in Tamworth and the White Mountains of New Hampshire.”
“I look forward to shepherding The Barnstormers out of the pandemic and into a new world, full of vibrant possibility. In whatever time allows during my tenure, my solemn promise to our devoted audiences is that The Barnstormers is committed to presenting robust and imaginative theater, and will be an artistic home for all. We stand proudly with Black Lives Matter, we oppose Asian Hate, and we will make space to tell stories that reflect the world around us. The mission statement of The Barnstormers is to keep vital the value, spirit, and tradition of fine summer theatre– let that vitality buoy us endlessly towards the never-ending joy of what only live storytelling can provide.”
Joe Longthorne is a Tony Award Winning Producer, General Manager, Blogger, and Theatrical Entrepreneur. Joe is a managing partner at Fourth Wall Theatricals, a firm specializing in General Management, Ticket Inventory Management, and Broadway Group Sales. Favorite Lead Producing credits include Our Dear Dead Drug Lord by Alexis Scheer, Off-Broadway at the WP Theater, and OSCAR at The Crown by The Neon Coven which recently played a 2019 run at 3 Dollar Bill. Favorite Co-Producing credits include Waitress Broadway, US National, and London Productions, Oh Hello on Broadway, and The Band’s Visit on Broadway (for which he received a Tony Award) and US National Tour. Joe also served as the Director of Ticketing for the 2018 Tony Awards. Proud graduate of The Boston Conservatory at Berklee, and current MBA candidate at University of Illinois Urbana-Champaign. Joe is the founder and CEO of Creative Finance with Broadway Joe.
As an Actor, Joe has appeared in 11 productions on The Barnstormers Theatre stage. Joe had the pleasure of playing Sam Craig in the 2012 production of OUR TOWN directed by Bob Shea, which is the role that The Barnstormers founder Francis Cleveland played in the original Broadway production of the same play.
Joe helped produce and direct the inaugural NYC Gala “A Night For The Barnstormers Theatre” in the spring of 2018. The 2018 Gala raised over $3,000 in funds directly supporting the theater, and has become a cherished annual tradition over the last few years.
Dale was introduced to The Barnstormers Theatre while living in Francis Cleveland’s father’s house. Being next door, she became personal friends with Francis and Alice and enjoyed many stories behind the scenes. Now company Manager, she works directly with The Artistic director assisting with the day to day planning of each season. This includes researching the rights to each show, organizing auditions and contracts, traveling with the Artistic Director to interview stage crew.
Box Office Manager
Evelyn came to The Barnstormers with a background in commercial photography, marketing and design. She was formerly Creative Director at Keepsake Quilting, and head of catalog design at Northeast Auctions in Portsmouth, NH.
She takes all the photos, produces the program book, manages the advertising, website and social media and occasionally makes cheeky curtain speeches.
The Barnstormers has been in my blood since before I can even remember. Summer and The Barnstormers were truly synonymous terms. Francis Cleveland was my “revered uncle,” (his term), and I was lucky enough to be a part of The Barnstormers family from the beginning. Now it is a huge privilege to play a part in the current life and future of the organization.
Having fallen head over heels for The Barnstormers, I have served on the Board since 2004. Being involved with The Barnstormers and working to create a sustainable theatrical model for future generations has been a meaningful and rewarding endeavor.
Community outreach has always been a priority for me.
My husband Gene and I owned Indian Mound Hardware in Center Ossipee for 28 years before we retired. I was very honored to be asked to join the Board of the Barnstormers Theatre and subsequently become Treasurer. I enjoy sharing my experience in the accounting field and being a part of a great team of people working to insure the future success of The Barnstormers.
Anne McKey Batchelder
Anne grew up in Wonalancet. When she was twelve, Francis Cleveland cast her in January Thaw. She then worked properties and moved up to stage managing through her college years. She spent many years in New York, working as a casting director for commercials and industrial films…
Hope P. McGowan
I grew up in Washington, DC, but my family spent every August on my aunt’s farm in South Tamworth, a vacation that would always include at least one visit to The Barnstormers. The summer before I began my freshman year at Dartmouth, I was lucky enough to be hired by Francis Cleveland as an apprentice technician and properties mistress. Soon after retiring from my career as a criminal prosecutor, including 24 years at the US Department of Justice, I moved back to the Tamworth area and am now delighted to be once more part of The Barnstormers’ family.
Minda has been involved with the Barnstormers for about 10 years. She lives in Wellesley MA and spends her summers in Moultonborough, NH. Attending the theatre has always been a special interest of her husband and her parents. They still bring her 89 year old father who loves the experience. Minda’s family supports the Barnstormers every season and want to be a part of its success.
Lynn and her family have been enjoying The Barnstomers Theatre for over six years. Their love of the Barnstormers is what drove her to serve on the Board of Directors. She is the Director of Development and Fundraising for the Gibson Center for Senior Services in North Conway, NH. With over 15 years of health and humans service experience, the mission of any organization is extremely important to her. Lynn states, “The mission of the Barnstormers and the experience it brings to our patrons is bound to bring a smile to those that join our Barnstormers family.”
Mary Breasted Smyth
Mary has been a Barnstormers board member for eight years. Her father, James Breasted Jr., served on the board in the 1970’s. Her aunt, Katherine Hocking, acted in numerous Barnstormers productions. Mary was a small animal in the first production of “Toad of Toad Hall” in the theater in the 1950s, painted scenery as an apprentice in her teens and has been a Barnstormers fan all her life.