THE VAGABOND PLAYERS
In 1937, a group of struggling performers, led by Robroy Farquhar, organized themselves as the Vagabond Players. The Vagabonds worked in a variety of places over the course of three years, and in 1940 found themselves in the Blue Ridge region of Western North Carolina. The local and tourist community welcomed them with open arms when they presented their first summer season of plays in a 150 year old grist mill they converted into The Old Mill Playhouse at Highland Lake. So successful was that summer, they returned in 1941.
LAKE SUMMIT PLAYHOUSE
After WWII, the Vagabond Players reorganized, came back to the region and opened a playhouse in nearby Lake Summit. The Lake Summit Playhouse thrived during the post war years and soon the Vagabond Players were looking for a larger and permanent home.
THE BIRTH OF FLAT ROCK PLAYHOUSE
In 1952, the troupe of performers, and a newly formed board of directors, made an offer to buy an 8 acre lot in the Village of Flat Rock. This new home made the Vagabonds “locals”and a rented big top gave birth to Flat Rock Playhouse.
THE STATE THEATRE OF NORTH CAROLINA
As the beautiful Western Carolina region continued to grow, so did the Playhouse and in 1961, by a Act of the North Carolina General Assembly, Flat Rock Playhouse was officially designated The State Theatre of North Carolina. What began as a few weeks of summer performances in 1940 is now an eight month season of plays including Broadway musicals, comedy, drama, and theatre for young audiences.
THE PLAYHOUSE TODAY
The Playhouse’s dual mission of producing the performing arts and providing education in the performing arts includes a ten-show professional series; a summer and fall college apprentice and intern program; performances and cabaret series by the YouTheatre; year-round classes and workshops for students from kindergarten through adults. Flat Rock Playhouse now hosts over 90,000 patrons annually and is a major contributor to the local economy and the Arts in North Carolina.
1936: Robroy Farquhar forms The Vagabond Players, play-reading group in NYC.
1939: The Vagabond Players perform at Bedford Springs, PA for the summer. Robroy travels to Miami, FL in the fall and begins teaching drama at private school. Here he learns of the location of Hendersonville & Flat Rock, NC.
1940: Robroy travels to Hendersonville, NC. Inquires about locals interest in summer performances and finds the “Old Mill” on the edge of Highland Lake Camp. The Old Mill Playhouse opens for the 1940 summer season.
1941: A second successful season at Old Mill Playhouse and the Hendersonville Chamber of Commerce thanks Robroy and the Vagabonds for their contributions to the community. Robroy is drafted, Playhouse plans are on hold through WWII.
1946: The Vagabonds come back to Hendersonville and take up residence in nearby Tuxedo at an old school that Mrs. John A Law had converted into a theatre for The Carolina Players of Chapel Hill. In June the Lake Summit Playhouse opens for a season of 10 plays in 10 weeks.
1948: Leona Fraki joins the company as housemother and food manager. Robroy & Leona marry in September.
1951: Spring – Ruth Conrad agrees to lease Rockworth (the home built by Richard I’on Lowndes, Jr. now known as the Lowndes House) to the Vagabond Players. This will be the last summer at the Lake Summit Playhouse.
1952: The Vagabonds move back to Flat Rock and Flat Rock Playhouse is born under a rented big top. The Vagabond School of the Drama incorporates.
1956: Ruth Conrad agrees to sell Rockworth and the land. The Vagabonds launch the “Raise The Roof” Campaign and purchase the property they still call home.
1959: North Carolina General Assembly passes a resolution recognizing Flat Rock Playhouse as the Western North Carolina Theatre
1961: North Carolina General Assembly designates Flat Rock Playhouse as The State Theatre of North Carolina.
1962: Norman Corwin writes The World of Carl Sandburg and FRP stages the first production with Mr. Sandburg’s approval, later the play tours with Bette Davis then moves to Broadway. The Carl Sandburg National Historic Site is located across the street from the Playhouse.
1969: Cat on a Hot Tin Roof starring Rosemary Prinz breaks all Box Office records.
1970: FRP’s first production of Look Homeward, Angel (runs annually until 1979).
1972: FRP premieres Opal by Pulitzer Prize winning playwright John Patrick.
1975: Vagabond Players perform The World of Carl Sandburg, An Afternoon with Mr. Lincoln, Rootabaga Stories at the Carl Sandburg National Historic Site.
1980: Robin R. Farquhar joins the staff as Managing Director.
1983: Robroy Farquhar, Founding Artistic Director February 15, 1911 – October 5, 1983
1986: First season of 10 plays in 11 weeks.
1987: 1776 is staged as the first large scale musical in FRP’s history and the season extends to Labor Day.
1990: Rosemary Prinz returns to play Daisy in Driving Miss Daisy. Burt Reynolds & Loni Anderson visit.
1991: Burt Reynolds opens his one man show with an engagement at FRP and directs Eleemosynary starring June Havoc & Elizabeth Ashley. FRP premieres the new musical, Lucky Guy.
1992: FRP premieres 4 new plays: Gilligan’s Island: The Musical, Smoke & Mirrors, When Pigs Fly and Nuptials. June Havoc presents her one-woman show An Unexpected Evening with June Havoc.
1993: Project Playhouse (Show for Schools) begins with a September production, The Glass Menagerie. The Children’s Theatre becomes The Theatre for Young People. Slip stages are installed and the Albert S. Gooch, Jr. Scenic Studio is constructed.
1994: Forever Plaid is the first “Fall Colors Season” production staged in October.
1995: Theatre for Young People premieres two new plays Tart! and Revenance.
1997: Theatre for Young People premieres The Legend of Sleepy Hollow.
1998: Leona Fraki Farquhar, Co-Founder July 23, 1920 – June 8, 1998
2000: First FRP Holiday Season: Sanders Family Christmas is staged in November and A Christmas Carol is staged in December
2001: FRP premieres Stand By Your Man: The Tammy Wynette Story.
2002: 50th Anniversary Season. FRP premieres Jim’s Garage.
2003: Singin’ In The Rain is staged complete with rain showers – breaks all Box Office records to date. A new housing facility for Guest Artist is constructed. FRP premiers Starstruck.
2004: FRP is the first professional/regional company to stage Disney’s Beauty and the Beast. Theatre for Young People premieres new dance project Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland.
2005: The Theatre for Young People is officially renamed as the YouTheatre. 1776, FRP’s first musical production returns after 19 years. Children of Eden is staged prior to the first national tour.
2006: The first ever Capital Campaign to raise 2.3 million was launched to build a new YouTheatre Education Center. Over 90,000 audience members were entertained during the 2006 season.
2007: FRP premiers Taking A Chance On Love. The Robin R. Farquhar YouTheatre Education Center opened for its innaugural session of classes in September.
2008: Robin R. Farquhar, Executive Artistic Director (son of Robroy and Leona, Founders of FRP) September 6, 1949 – November 3, 2008. YouTheatre premieres Billy, Goat & Gruff.
2009: YouTheatre premieres Princess Reform School. Seven Brides for Seven Brothers breaks Singin’ in the Rain’s Box Office records becoming the biggest selling show to date. Vincent Marini joins staff as Producing Artistic Director. FRP premiers Real Estate and It Happened One Christmas. Over 100,000 audience members were entertained during the 2009 season.
2010: FRP premieres My Own Song. 12 Angry Men presented at the Historic Henderson County Courthouse – becoming the first long-running show off of the main Flat Rock campus.
2011: Flat Rock Playhouse celebrates 50th Anniversary as the “State Theatre of North Carolina. FRP launches new venue in downtown Hendersonville – Playhouse Downtown – a 250 capacity auditorium in a converted retail space.