Andover Townsman, Andover, MA

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December 29, 2011

Andover Stories: 100 years of theater in town

While there have been countless church groups, schools and women's guilds sponsoring dramatic readings, concerts, lectures, films, singing and even whistling prior to the early 1900s, there has also been a long procession of established community theater companies. With presentations held at the The November Club, Balmoral Hall (above the Balmoral Spa), the Town Hall, church venues and school auditoriums, Andover has represented the theatrical arts for over 100 years.

Foremost, the theatrical community has participated in the town's milestone celebrations. In 1896 (the town's 250th anniversary) a "historic tableau" was presented with costumed actors who neither spoke nor moved. In 1946, the 300th anniversary, an "historical pageant" was held. For the 350th anniversary, Andover Community Theatre presented "Our Town."

The Andover Dramatic Club was active by 1911. To see the shows you had to become a member and pay a $2 fee. In October of that year, the Andover Dramatic Club decided to adopt the title of The Barnstormers for its official name. The Andover Townsman stated "its purpose is amusement and we feel that all residents of Andover should be a part of the organization." The casting policy of The Barnstormers was "to ask its active members to play alternatively important parts and very smallest roles, in that way giving each one opportunity to express the best that is in him, in giving the managers the chance to learn in what line each member is most successful, so that in time they could appropriately cast every play."

The Barnstormers became so popular they eventually extended their performances and allowed tickets to be sold to the general public. In 1914 and 1915 they held benefits for the Belgium Relief Fund. During World War I they scaled back their performances because a number of their key members had joined the armed forces. They continued to perform until 1926. On the announcement of their decision to disband, the Townsman published their entire 15-year performance history.

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