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
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, advertising and website; manages 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.