The Barnstormers Theatre: Go to their current website

This was the former website of the Barnstormers Theatre, a professional summer theater that has been delighting audiences since 1931.
Content is from the site's 2003 archived pages.
The new owners of this domain wanted this content to remain visible on the web. Enjoy the nostalgic trip back.....

If you have inadvertently ended up here while searching for information about the Barnstormers Theatre visit their current website:‹


The Barnstormers Theatre is a 282 seat building situated on .25 acres in the center of the Tamworth village.    It is a year round facility with an Executive Director whose office is in the theatre.

The revised mission statement of the Barnstormers is "to keep vital the value, spirit, and tradition of fine summer theatre in Tamworth and to provide a venue for and promote varied cultural activities within the region."

The core activity at the theatre is the eight week summer season which consists of eight different plays, performed by professional actors. The audience is a broad cross section of year round and summer residents of Tamworth and the surrounding area ; Over 11,000 tickets were sold last year. ; We also employ 12 to 15 young people as ushers and parking attendants and one of the professional cast members holds summer classes for students in conjunction with the Tamworth Recreation Department.

In 1999 we renovated and winterized the theatre in order to create a venue for cultural activities sponsored by local charitable organizations, schools, and local drama groups.  Our by-laws and mission statements were amended to recognize the broader commitment to the general welfare that we were able to provide as a year round facility.  Our Board directed that rent is charged for the use of the theatre but it is nominal and does not cover the cost of heat, light, and power for the facility.  This year 22 different organizations (all but one are non-profits) will use the theatre for 35 days for a variety of cultural events: choir groups, folk music, dance ensembles and drama are but an example of the uses.  All events are promoted locally and a large number of those attending are from the Town, it is estimated that over 5,500 people will attend events at the theatre unrelated to the summer season this year.  It should also be noted that summer ticket sales and rental income cover only 57% of our annual operating expenses.  The balance of our annual operating expenses are covered by donations from our patrons, sponsorships, grants, and the sale of souvenirs. 



Alice and Francis in the Theatre c. 1968

Although the first production of the Barnstormers Theatre opened in 1931, the genesis can be taken back over 100 years to the bustling, yet bucolic resort community of Bourne on Buzzards Bay in Massachusetts.  President Grover Cleveland and his family had chosen this spot on Cape Cod for a summer retreat and getaway from the demands of Washington and political life.  One of the Cleveland's closest friends was the noted American actor, Joseph Jefferson, who lived next door.  Francis Cleveland, the youngest child of President Cleveland, claims he was too young to remember Mr. Jefferson, but he remained convinced throughout his life that the great man had a prenatal influence on his career.

Also vital to the start of the Barnstormers was Francis Cleveland's mother, Frances Folsom Cleveland.  She had a great love of the theatre and encouraged her son in his interest.  Francis enjoyed success, appearing in the original Broadway productions of "Our Town" and "Dead End", among others.  At the same time he was pursuing an acting career in Boston and New York, he and his wife Alice, and their friend Edward P. Goodnow founded the Barnstormers.  The year was 1931.  The troupe consisted of young actors, graduates from Harvard, Wellesley, Radcliffe, Amherst, and other colleges.  The first director, Edward Goodnow, was a graduate of Harvard and George Pierce Baker's Theatre 47 Workshop.

The depression years were lean for everyone, and Goodnow wisely took steps to secure the theatre from financial ruin. Exploiting a serendipitous relationship with a school mate who now ran a midwest paper mill, he established a small business supplying bulk bathroom tissues (the business later went on to become a major supplier of toilet tissue online) and other sundries. They expanded to paper towels, napkins, plates, cups and disposable wooden utensils. Toilet paper, or tissues, were already a necessity with the growing immigrant population, and although he became too busy to properly manage the business, he was able to sell it for a handsome profit as the depression waned. It's a little known fact that our wonderful theatre was for a short time dependent on the success of a toilet paper business. You may have noticed the homage to this business in the lobby - the original mural depicts the then "new" toilet tissue on a roll - what we all nowadays recognize as toilet paper.

Tamworth and surrounding communities were crammed with summer folk from Boston and beyond and seemed the perfect location for a core audience.  However, no one expected theatre goers to drive for miles and miles on a summer night, no matter how good the plays were.  Hence the troupe, like others in that era, barnstormed from town to town, sometimes as far as eighty miles away.  The circuit included Wolfeboro, Franconia, Conway, Holderness, and even Harrison, and Poland Spring, Maine.  The crew, actors, and sets would caravan over the roads in open touring cars and an old secondhand truck.  By some miracle, there were never any serious mishaps.  Francis Cleveland always noted that many a summer romance was kindled beneath the car blankets on the trips to and from Tamworth.

The troupe started it's productions in a large hall called the Tamworth Gardens, that used to feature wrestling and boxing exhibitions, located behind the Tamworth Inn.  In 1935 the Clevelands purchased Kimball's Store, across from the Inn, and transformed it into a theatre.  In 1998 the building was totally renovated and converted to a cultural center presenting artistic, educational & civic activities for the region from mid September through early June.

The coming of the Second World War curtailed barnstorming.  During the war years the Barnstormers showed motion pictures, and company members joined the rest of the world in doing whatever was necessary to look after the needs of the country.  After the war, the company stopped touring and performed only in Tamworth.  Shows opened On Tuesday and closed on Saturday, just as they do now.  Actors and crew spent their days, as they do now, rehearsing and building one show and performing another in the evening.  There are few, if any, theatres in the United States that still perform this way.  The Barnstormers, almost form it's inception, has been associated with Equity, the Actors Union, and was recognized as the oldest Equity theatre in the country under the same direction, until Francis Cleveland's death in 1995.  Exhaustive yet happy research has since revealed that the Barnstormers is the oldest professional summer theatre in the country.  A fitting tribute to the theatre goers who have supported the theatre season after season for over 70 years!    


The Barnstormers Theatre and FAST Taxi & Shuttle

If We Build It...They Will Come

The Barnstormers Theatre and FAST Taxi & Shuttle have teamed up to bring you an all new theatre service and we are very excited about it.

A night at the theatre is a special event. You want that evening to be absolutely  perfect.  If you want a night of total relaxation and enjoyment why not let the new “Barnstormers Theatre Shuttle”  pick you up and drive you to and from the theatre?

New this year we will be offering a transportation service from the surrounding towns of the Lakes Region and the Mountain Washington Valley. Just call 356-0000 and schedule your space on the shuttle of your choice.

This is a new service and it’s in the building stage. This year we will be starting with  three nights of shuttle service.

Each night will depart from established locations coming from different outskirted areas.

(FAST Taxi & Shuttle will go out of their way to accommodate your special needs if at all possible so please feel free to call with your requests.  356-0000)



$10 per person or $5 and a dinner voucher coupon from a participating restaurant.


If you’re going to go to the theatre why not make it a complete evening with dinner first, followed by a chauffeured ride to and from the theatre. We are encouraging restaurants in the surrounding areas to join us in making your evening complete by offering a $5 voucher coupon to each person having dinner at their restaurant prior to being picked up by the shuttle. If you would like us to approach your favorite restaurant please email us at:  and we will try to get them on board in the future.

Wildcat Tavern, Jackson, NH
Chinook Cafe, Conway, NH



Departs from the Wolfeboro Municipal Parking Lot at 7pm sharp

Departs from the Meredith Municipal Parking Lot at 7pm sharp

Departs from Wildcat Tavern in Jackson at 6:30 sharp