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The New London Barn Playhouse - A Historic Main Street Treasure Expands and Gets a Face-lift

Jun 28, 2022 11:36AM ● By Susan Nye Photography By Ian Raymond

New London Barn Playhouse is set to open for the 90th summer season.

Overture, 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.


Although 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

“I 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.

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.)


For 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.”


Designed 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 2022 season.

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 been installed.

The new Fleming Center is an indoor rehearsal and classroom space for year-round opportunities.

Along 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.”

The 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.

The 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.
Education 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.

The 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.

And 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.
With 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
(603) 526-6710 

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