The Barn Players Theater was founded in 1955 by Earl Altaire, a prominent Kansas City interior designer and theater devotee. He personally guided the renovation of a large barn at the Woolf Farm near 83rd and Mission Road, turning it into a comfortable theater seating 225 people. The old barn had once been the home of Larwin, winner of the 1938 Kentucky Derby. From 1955 to 1971, it was to be the home of the Barn Players.
Earl Altaire died in 1959, but his dream of a strong community theater was kept alive by a group of his original Barn Players. They banded together to form a non-profit corporation, The Barn Players, Inc., in Johnson County.
The 1971 season found the Barn Players at the old Manor Barn on the grounds of the Glenwood Manor near 91st and Metcalf. The move from the Woolf Farm property had been dictated by impending commercial development of the area, which made the maintenance of the Barn as a theater financially unfeasible. At the Manor Barn, the Barn Players presented most of its productions in an arena-like fashion, in contrast to the traditional proscenium staging of shows in the original Barn.
Negotiations with officials of Johnson County Community College began in earnest in late summer 1971, as the Barn Players sought a permanent home and a closer identification with their immediate community. The college was seeking ways to serve the needs of a quickly growing Johnson County, and it agreed to begin an experiment with the Barn Players.
Beginning in 1972, the college provided a home for the Barn Players. In return, the Barn Players gave the college and the community a theater which involved area citizens in every way and at every level of the theatrical experience.
With the building of the new performing arts center on the JCCC campus in 1989, the college began to focus on nationally known performing arts organizations, as well as professional shows and concerts from Greater Kansas City. In 1990, after 18 years of performances at JCCC, the Barn Players found themselves without a home.
Since that time, however, the Barn Players have continued to thrive through the dedication and hard work of community volunteers. Performances for the main summer season had shifted to the Shawnee Mission High Schools, while additional performances have been staged in such venues as the Old Shawnee Town Hall, the Shawnee Civic Center and the Roeland Park Community Center.
In 2004 The Barn, with the help of the Northeast Johnson County Chamber of Commerce, found a home in Mission, Kansas as they believed that the quality of life in the area would be enhanced by The Barn’s presence. In 2006, Mainstreet Credit Union purchased the property but allowed The Barn to remain there rent free until the end of the 2017 season. Their benevolence enabled The Barn to experience growth and city-wide recognition that would not have been possible otherwise.
In December of 2017, a new home was needed and found at The Arts Asylum, a collaborative arts space in downtown Kansas City, Missouri. While The Barn’s youth programming remained in Johnson County, we look forward to hosting many wonderful main stage productions in this newly renovated theater. The Barn is excited to be part of the artistic growth of the Paseo Gateway Neighborhood and becoming known as “Kansas City’s Community Theatre”.
THE BARN WHO'S WHO
Many people who have appeared in productions throughout our history have gone on to greater fame on stage, screen and television. Among these are: Kansas City actors Jim Birdsall, Dodie Brown, Melinda McCrary and Cathy Barnett, Academy Award winner Chris Cooper, Phillip Fiorini, John Rensenhouse from “The Lion King” national tour, documentary producer Susan Gandy, Broadway actor Henry Stram, film and television actor Arliss Howard, Broadway, Film and TV art director Harry Silverglat Darrow, local film and theatre critic Russ Simmons, character actress Lynn Cohen from “Hunger Games: Catching Fire”, and Patrick Lewallen from the national tour of “Rock of Ages”.