Barre Players History

The event that set the stage for the formation of the group was described by the Worcester Daily Telegram of August 18, 1921: “About 1000 people…were present at ‘A Midsummer’s Night’s Dream’ which was given in the park tonight by local talent. The play was under the personal direction of George Vivian, a summer resident of Barre, who is one of New York’s leading theatrical producers.” 

Such success sparked action. “Barre Players was formally organized on the 31st of December, 1921. It was composed of about a dozen residents of the town of Barre – men and women who had for years been giving plays for the benefit of local philanthropies”, Nancy Burncoat states in the Sunday Telegram in early 1922.

During the twenties and early thirties, the Barre Players staged performances in Williams Hall, the auditorium in town with a stage large enough for theatrical productions. It stood, before the fire that destroyed it, next to the present Historical Society building, one block north of our current theater.

During these years, George Vivian continued to stage Shakespearean drama, importing New York actors for the leads and using Barre Players for the supporting roles. In the thirties, Mr. Vivian left this area to form his own theater company in Washington, D.C., and interest in the Barre Players gradually declined. Before the end of the decade, the club had become inactive.

During the 1950s, the Reverend Robert S. Illingsworth of the Barre Congregational Church reformed the organization with the new name Barre Players Club. This group initially served as a church drama group, but soon reached out into the town to other people interested in hands-on theater. By 1960 the membership had grown so large and varied that the club became a community organization and moved to a new location in the Barre Town Hall. The group changed its name back to Barre Players in the early 1970s.

The 1980s were a literal “trial by fire” for the Barre Players. In January 1981 a devastating fire swept through Barre’s Town Hall, causing severe damage to the historic structure. In the tradition of “the show must go on”, the Players continued with an abbreviated production schedule, using school auditoriums and church halls for their performances until they returned to the newly restored Town Hall in the spring of 1983. Later in the decade the Players lost all of their sets and properties when the barn used for storage was leveled by fire.  

The 1990s brought spectacular change. On March 27, 1992, the group incorporated and became Barre Players Inc. The following year the Barre Players purchased the Greek Revival building at the south end of the common and the Barre Players Theater became a reality.

Over the past several years the facility has been renovated and technically upgraded to be more conducive for theatrical productions. Wheelchair accessibly was achieved with the addition of a new restroom, ramp and side entrance. Audience comfort has been improved with the addition of air conditioning and elevated seating.