History

THE MAGIC OF THE PLAYERS

The Players is a club whose main activity is the production of a variety of plays throughout our season – from Abbott to Zweig with a little Shakespeare and Sondheim thrown in.

Located on Providence’s Historic East Side, we are an amateur group of people collaborating our experience in acting, directing, producing, set design and construction, properties assistance, lighting and sound design and implementation, costuming, and any other activity needed to bring a play to life.

Henry Ames Barker founded The Players in 1909 with Professor Thomas Crosby, Jr. of Brown University. The club is a direct descendant of the Talma Club (founded 1887) and its predecessor the Amateur Dramatic Club.  From 1909 to 1932, productions were performed in several Providence venues including The Talma Theatre, Infantry Hall and The Elks Auditorium.  In 1932, with a bequest from Henry A. Barker (d. 1929), we moved permanently to our present location, The Barker Playhouse.  Many changes have been made over the years to the buildings which have made us one of Providence’s most cherished cultural legacies.

The performing season from October to May features five major productions, each running for six performances over two weekends.  We also have many events in the Joseph W. Riker, Jr. Green Room, a smaller stage to try out various projects, which may be one act plays or seminars.  The members create, design, build all our sets, costumes, lights, and sound.

The Players, with its tag line “America’s Oldest Little Theatre,” is reputed to be the oldest continuously operating little theatre in the County.  The Club is a true American icon, the membership’s indomitable spirit enduring through two world wars, The Great Depression, and an acceleration of the pace of everyday life and competing forms of leisure time.

Please join us and enjoy the magic of live theatre.

HISTORY OF THE BUILDINGS

Old_Barker_PhotoThe Barker Playhouse is located at the corner of Benefit and Transit Streets (now designated Barker Way) in the Fox Point Section of Providence, Rhode Island.  An original structure on this land was built in 1742 and served as a home to multiple families.  St. Stephen’s Episcopal Church purchased the property in 1839, tore down the multi-family dwelling and erected the current structure.  The playhouse is constructed of rubble stone, covered with cement.  The design is reputed to be “one of the simplest and most severe Greek Revival churches in Providence”.  The building once had a spire and belfry above the main entrance.
The congregation of St. Stephen’s moved to its current location on George Street in 1862.  This stucco church became the center for mission work performed by the Rhode Island Episcopal Convention.  The Church of the Savior property (as well as the adjacent lot on Transit Street) was acquired for The Players in 1932.  This milestone purchase was made possible through funds left by Henry Ames Barker.  BarkerPlayhouse_AThree buildings comprise the property known as the Barker Playhouse and is owned by the Barker Foundation.  The main building, located on Benefit Street, is two stories and houses the main auditorium.  Talma (added in 1940 to connect the playhouse and Ice Box) and the Ice Box are accessible through the theatre, and through an entrance on Transit Street.  The Ice Box was the original site of the Third District Schoolhouse, built in 1800 when public education was established in Rhode Island.  That building was demolished and the present structure was erected in the 1920’s as a Portuguese Social Club.

 

THE PLAYERS

 PERFORMING LOCATIONS

TALMA THEATRE  1909—1916

INFANTRY  HALL 1916—1926

ELKS HALL 1926—1929

INFANTRY HALL 1929—1932

BARKER  PLAYHOUSE 1932—present

 THE BARKER FOUNDATION AND THE PLAYERS

Henry A. Barker was a founding member of The Players in 1909 (and of its predecessor, The Talma Club, in the late 1800s).  When he died in 1929, he left funds for “promoting and developing drama as a cultural factor in the community life of the City of Providence.”  In 1932, thanks to the efforts of Sally Barker, his wife, the Barker Foundation was incorporated.  In that same year, the Playhouse property was purchased and leased to The Players for a ten-year period.  The lease has been renewed on a regular basis and it is expected to continue long into the future.

The Barker Foundation is comprised of nine trustees who share a love for theater and its continued growth in Providence.   Its assets consist of the Playhouse properties and an investment portfolio which makes it possible to offer occasional financial assistance to The Players and to other performing arts organizations in the City of Providence.