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Heritage Hunt: Richmond Hill Barn Theatre

The Richmond Hill Barn Theatre was established in 1968 when half a dozen people in the area converted the top floor of an old dairy barn into a performance theater with the mission of bringing theater and the arts to Geneseo and residents of the surrounding area who may not otherwise have the opportunity to check out these plays and live theater.  The property was purchased by the Geneseo CIty Council and its park board after a local farmer decided to sell the north section of their farm, including the barn and milk house.  This land was acquired with the intent of establishing a city park, which would be the beginning of the Richmond Hill Park.  Some of the park chairmen had the idea that the barn loft would make a great community theater space, and they began cleaning out and fixing up the old barn to facilitate these shows in the park.  

 

Initially, there were many struggles and issues with having the plays in the park from a logistical standpoint.  Some of these issues included the only way to enter and exit the loft being a fire escape ladder, which led to many audience members and cast members getting soaked when it rained, as actors waiting for their queues would have to wait outside on the ladder due to their being no backstage area for actors to wait in, and women’s heels would get caught in the steps of the fire escape.  The original roof also had holes in it, with it being noted that sometimes rain would come through the roof hitting audience members, as well as creating a distraction from the sound of the rain hitting the chairs inside the theater.  Eventually, these issues were fixed through renovations over the years, but those first few years that the theater was open brought to light many issues that needed fixing.  

 

The first shows put on at the Barn Theatre included “The Stolen Prince” and “The Lost Princess” by Dan Totheroh for the Youth Theatre cast July 11, 1968, and the 17th century comedy “The Miser” by Moliere for the adult ensemble on July 26, 1968.  Today, a typical year with the Richmond Hill Players consists of a total of 6 different shows with a performance season running from April to November.  The theatre is known for its “in-the-round” configuration, where performers and the stage set are entirely surrounded by the audience with the performance in the middle, a setup that is not easily found by other venues in the area due to the unique seating arrangement.  The space can seat approximately 160 people. 

 

To this day, the Barn Theatre serves as a place for local audiences to see a wide variety of performances from comedy, drama, mystery, and anything in between.  The Richmond Hill Players pride themselves and have from the beginning for exposing local audiences to a variety of shows and entertainment that otherwise may not have been accessible to those in the surrounding areas, bringing new entertainment and media to a local audience who may not have easy access to theater programming otherwise.  

All information stated has been collected from articles of the Geneseo Republic, obtained through the Geneseo Public Library District Digital Archives, as well as the official website of the Richmond Hill Players.  To learn more about this location yourself, check out these articles: 

Happiness of these actors is no act - Geneseo Republic (1992) 

Richmond Hill Players continue fundraising - Geneseo Republic (2002) 

A new look for Richmond Hill Theatre - Geneseo Republic (2003) 

Foundation donates $100,000 to lighting project - Geneseo Republic (2013) 

Richmond Hill Players Official Website 

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