The 80th Anniversary Of The Vagabond Players At The Henderson County Heritage Museum

In 1937, long before Flat Rock Playhouse began its history "on the Rock" in the Village of Flat Rock, a man by the name of Robroy Farquhar led a group of struggling performers around the country, until together, they settled in the Blue Ridge region of Western North Carolina. Having performed on a number of stages, this play-reading group called themselves the Vagabonds. Led by Robroy and his dreams of bringing summer theatre to the beautifully set mountains of Henderson County, this group of vagabond actors became the famous Vagabond Players, first seen at Lake Summit Playhouse until moving permanently to the location of today's Flat Rock Playhouse, The State Theatre of North Carolina. Born of one man's dreams, The Vagabond Players have provided the Henderson County community with eighty years of incredibly high quality entertainment and live performance art that was, and still is woven into the fabric of Western North Carolina's history, people and culture.

Dennis C. Maulden, long-time Vagabond and current Resident Scenic Designer at Flat Rock Playhouse, explains that, "having joined the Vagabond family in 1967, I remember thinking upon my arrival that The Playhouse had been around for decades. It came as a surprise to learn that Flat Rock Playhouse had been founded a mere fifteen years before in 1952. Now that we are celebrating the 80th anniversary of Robroy Farquhar's Vagabond Players, I understand how that sense of history and spirit affected me so powerfully in my first-year apprenticeship. I feel privileged to belong to such a creative and giving theatre ensemble. We are, indeed, a family, and I experience each new season with fond memories of the past and eager anticipation of the new Vagabonds who will soon become lifelong friends."

It is this very story and evolution that Flat Rock Playhouse celebrates as they present their 2017 season. In addition, the Henderson County Heritage Museum will graciously honor this history with The 80th Anniversary of the Vagabond Players exhibit opening May 6th at the Henderson County Historic Courthouse. The exhibit will run throughout the entirety of the 80th Season of The Vagabond Players into mid to late December 2017.

This exhibit features (but is not limited to) the angel, designed by Maulden, from Flat Rock Playhouse's 1970 production of Look Homeward Angel, The Vagabond School of Drama, Inc. sign that originally hung over the porch of the historic Lowndes House, programs from the inaugural 1952 summer season of Flat Rock Playhouse, the Sarcophagus used in The Playhouse's 2004 production of The Man Who Came to Dinner, and the scenic model from the 2015 debut of Chasing Rainbows: The Road to Oz. The exhibit also contains several multimedia displays showing the storied history of the State Theatre of North Carolina, as well as a series of panels with biographical and historical information about Farquhar and his wife Leona.

The Chair of the Board of Directors of the Heritage Museum, Carolyn Justus, notes, "the exhibit at the Heritage Museum not only portrays the History of Flat Rock Playhouse, but is exciting! It is not often that a museum display can be called exciting."

There will be a reception presented by the Flat Rock Playhouse Board of Trustees and local "Vagabonds Players" celebrating the opening of this exhibit on May 6th from 12:00PM-2:00PM on the steps of the Courthouse. All are welcome.

FLAT ROCK PLAYHOUSE

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. 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. 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. As the beautiful Western Carolina region continued to grow, so did The Playhouse and in 1961, by 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 a nine-month season of plays including Broadway musicals, comedy, drama, and theatre for young audiences. The Playhouse's dual mission of producing the performing arts and providing education in the performing arts includes a professional series; a summer and fall college apprentice and intern program; and Studio 52, family focused programming that provides immersive, hands-on theatrical experiences for children in kindergarten through adults. Flat Rock Playhouse now hosts over 98,000 patrons annually and is a significant contributor to the local economy and the Arts in North Carolina.

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