curtains, lights! The wait has been far too long but, finally, the New
London Barn Playhouse is ready for her closeup. After the pandemic
closed the theater down for two summers, the historic landmark reopened
its doors on June 9 for the annual Straw Hat Review. Theater aficionados
got a first look at this year’s crop of talented young actors as well
as the work of the just-as-talented behind-the-scenes technical team.
The construction fences came down and patrons were able to walk around
and enjoy the new and improved theater district.
Snow Building Construction workers complete
final touches on the new front porch.
the Barn’s doors may have been closed, in the true spirit of Broadway,
the show must go on, and on it did. The New London Barn Playhouse staff
and board kept the mission alive with virtual performances in 2020 and
under a tent at Colby-Sawyer College in 2021. Moreover, the organization raised millions of dollars in a major capital campaign and completed new construction and extensive renovations on the New London Barn Playhouse campus.
Improvements for the Community, by the Community
am overwhelmed by the generosity of the local community and the
hundreds of individuals and families who donated to the campaign,” says
John Finck, president of the New London Barn Playhouse’s board of
directors. After years of careful planning and meetings with the town,
architects, and builders, the organization launched the Play A Part
Campaign in 2020.
the first capital campaign in the Barn’s 90-year history, the board of
directors did not call upon an army of experts and consultants. Instead,
the campaign was planned and executed internally with staff and
volunteers. David Bashaw, the Play A Part Campaign chairman, says, “We
are overwhelmed and humbled by the community’s generosity. We surpassed
our $3.5 million goal within the first year. We could not have done it
without our amazing staff and volunteers.”
Barn Playhouse senior staff, from left: Keith Coughlin, Executive Artistic Director; Jody Cooper-Rubin, Director of Development; Beth Adele Perregaux,
Business Manager and Director of Facilities; Abby Peel, Director of Sales and Marketing;
and Elliott Cunningham, Managing Director. (Not pictured: Sage Tokach, Director of Education.)
by Banwell Architects of Lebanon and built by Snow Building
Construction of New London, work began in the spring of 2021. The
project has employed dozens of local tradespeople. Every nail and board,
every pipe and wire, and every paver and plant has been hammered, installed, and placed by local carpenters, plumbers, electricians, and
landscapers. And in spite of weather-related and supply-chain issues,
the new and improved theater district was ready for the start of the
massive project brings four key goals to life. The first is to improve
the patron experience. Elevators will whisk patrons from the newly paved
and well-lit parking lot to the theater. The porch, a favorite
gathering spot before the show and during intermission, has been
expanded and a lovely courtyard has been added. Bathrooms have been
moved to the theater level and a state-of-the-art ventilation system has
The new Fleming Center is an indoor rehearsal and classroom space for year-round opportunities.
with the renovations, the community will be delighted to visit the new
Fleming Center for Artistic Development. This beautiful space’s design
echoes the architecture of the old Barn but, unlike the Barn, it is
fully winterized. Elliott Cunningham, managing director says, “The
Fleming Center creates opportunities for year-round entertainment and
education. We are looking forward to expanding with a variety of
performances, educational programs, and new activities.”
second goal is to improve the employee experience. During the summer,
up to 150 people, including acting and technical interns, guest artists,
administration, and support staff, work and create at the New London
Barn Playhouse. Since the Barn’s founding in 1919, from the cooks in the
kitchen to the technical crews and actors, the company has struggled
with cramped facilities.
new and improved campus provides a better and more professional
environment for everyone. Throughout the summer, the new Fleming Center
will be the home of daily rehearsals. There are spacious new workshops
for costume and set design and production. Even the kitchen has been
enlarged with more work and storage space.
is the third goal behind this extensive expansion and renovation. With
the Fleming Center, the New London Barn Playhouse can now expand its
year-round programs. The Barn’s Executive Artistic Director Keith
Coughlin is passionate about education and excited by the new and
growing opportunities. He explains, “The arts are important for people
of all ages. They bring the community together. Performing arts
education challenges creativity, fosters collaboration, builds
confidence, and engages the entire community.”
Growing and Celebrating Talent
From six-year-old campers to college interns, throughout the summer, the Barn
is alive with young players. In addition to the main company, the
Junior Intern Program brings middle-and high school students together
for nine weeks to rehearse, build, and perform for young audiences. The
Junior Interns bring both plays and musicals to the stage in the
Children’s Theater Series.
It doesn’t end there. Two camp companies, Barnie Babies (six to eight years) and Mainstreet
Players (nine to eleven years) can participate in one or all five
themed camp weeks. Campers explore acting, singing, dancing, and more.
Each week culminates in a final performance.
organization has just hired a full-time, year-round education director,
and Keith looks forward to growing the education program and expanding
collaboration with local schools. He says, “Performance creates magical
moments for the players, the crew, and for the audience.” The new and
improved theater district is ready to bring more magic to people
throughout the Kearsarge-Sunapee region.
finally, the New London Barn Playhouse is committed to preserving and
maintaining its historic roots. Built in 1820, the Barn was transformed
into a theater for summer stock in 1934. David Bashaw, the Play A Part
Campaign chairperson explains, “The Barn Playhouse is a town treasure.
This historic landmark is filled with memories and loved by multiple
generations of families.” To ensure that this historic landmark and the
entire campus remain a Main Street focal point for another 200 years,
12.5 percent of the funds raised in the capital campaign will go to
ongoing care and maintenance.
a lively season of musicals and plays, the summer of 2022 promises to
be one of the best ever. As they say at the Barn, “See you on the (new
and improved) porch!” I
New London Barn Playhouse
84 Main Street
New London, NH