History

The Villagers Theatre was founded in 1960 by twenty people who dedicated their organization to bringing ongoing cultural enrichment to the Central New Jersey Area. For over forty years, the Villagers Theater has been providing quality entertainment and community service to FranklinTownship.

The Villagers presented their first production in October of 1960 in the Van Middlesworth barn behind what is currently Oconners Restaurant.   By January 1961 the group swelled to over one hundred people as the Villagers became involved in plays, musicals, children’s theatre, puppet shows, variety shows, playwriting and art contests.  The Villagers used the Van Middlesworth’s barn until 1979 when the property was sold and the building converted to commercial use.

Rather than search for a new home, the Villagers, at that time lead by Ron Schapow, decided to build their own.  They convinced to township to lease them a piece of swampy ground in the back corner of what would eventually become the Municipal Complex.   It was on this spot that the Villagers erected NJ’s first purpose built community theater in the history of the state.

The new theater, a prefabricated metal barn, opened in 1980.  This “new barn” was the Villagers home for the next seven years, until changing fire code and access laws forced the Villagers to close their building.  Rather than give up and move, the Villagers rallied the township residents and raised over $250,000 to renovate and expand the Villagers theatre into the facility that it is today.  The renovated Villagers Barn Theatre opened its doors in September 1988.  The main theater seats 222 people and the Black Box Theater holds 100 spectators.  The building is both air-conditioned and fully accessible for the disabled.

For the archive of all of the plays, musicals and other events that have been produced by The Villagers Theater, please visit the productions section of this website here.