In the fall of 1969, the Martin County Players started as an adult education drama class at the “Instructional Center of Stuart, but because of the subject matter of “The Brick and the Rose” (drugs) the school board refused to allow it to be presented at the school. St Joseph’s College, (subsequently F.I.T.), temporarily offered the use of their auditorium, and the production was well received. This incident led the group to call themselves “The Renegade Players”.
The class continued at the Instructional Center and enjoyed several successes, but they began to feel discontented with the inadequate facilities. They dreamed of a larger stage, more backstage room, better lighting equipment, adequate storage, and more comfortable seating for the audience. It was also frustrating to have to cope with the censorship of the plays which the school board found necessary to enforce.
As fate would have it a chance remark led to the eventual purchase in December of 1970 of a barn and acre of land that was part of the Bussert Rose Farm. The group separated from the school system, was incorporated, and became chartered as a non-profit organization.
The financial arrangement of the transaction was an act of faith by both parties. The first board of directors borrowed on their personal signatures for the down payment and Mr. Bussert agreed to a mortgage which called for him to receive half of the proceeds from all plays for a period of three years, after which the balance, if any, became due.
Needless to say the two months from purchase to opening was a tremendous challenge. There was no working capital and a mountain of renovating to be done. At this time a wide assortment of Martin County residents demonstrated their desire to have a community theatre. They came forth with donations, loans and grueling labor.
The process of converting a flower packing barn into a theatre was a drama in itself! Insulated refrigeration rooms were demolished, a stage was built, walls erected, and sound and light booths constructed and furnished. All by volunteers and on the cheap. The last of the theatre style seats, purchased for $2.00 each, and paid for by individual contributions, came from a fire damaged church in West Palm Beach, and were installed the day before the first show. The theatre had to have a name and an outdoor sign to identify it. Since it was a real barn, and people would say “I’ll be working at the barn today”, it became known quite naturally as “The Barn”. So BARN THEATRE it was: Martin County’s Community Theatre.
January of 1971 saw the opening of “I Do, I Do!”, the first play presented on the boards of THE BARN. By January of 1974 the mortgage was burned, making it possible to begin improving and expanding the theatre facilities – an ongoing process. In the early 80’s we added dressing rooms, costume and furniture storage, and a set construction building. The summer of 1986 saw the whole theatre refurbished and 169 new theatre seats added. In the last few years, more storage and office space was added, as well as a much needed rehearsal hall, and the outside entry was widened with pavers added. In the summer of 2014 we completely remodeled our inside lobby and restrooms. The lobby is more open and inviting, and the restrooms are bigger, prettier, and handicapped assessable. We were able to continue improvements this summer, again due to the invaluable donation of labor and funds from our patrons and volunteers.
Early on, THE BARN realized the need for continuing community involvement and in 1974 a “Summer Theatre for Young People” was instituted with its first production, “Godspell”. Today we have a very popular summer “Camp Barn Theatre” that teaches all aspects of theatre. In fact much of our technical support comes from these young people, and we provide college scholarships to graduating seniors.
THE BARN is Martin County’s oldest non-profit (501c3) community theatre. And we are the only Community Theatre venue from Ft. Pierce to Jupiter. We present 6 main-stage productions per year, with 11 performances each. In addition we present several special events each year, many of which also benefit other local non-profits. Actors, directors, producers, sound and lighting technicians, set builders and designers, costumers, ushers, parkers, and all Board members are all volunteers!
We are proud to have carried on the traditions and visions of our founders.
We hope they would be proud.
Come join us in the adventure!