original Barn Theatre in SW Willmar
from "People Will Say We're in Love"
Don Emhke, Marion Parker, and Don Ahern
Willmar Community Theatre operates as a non-profit community
theatre, locally known as “The Barn Theatre.” It
provides cultural and artistic entertainment for the public,
which includes plays, recitals, orchestral opportunities and
drama. The mission of The Barn Theatre is to provide affordable,
quality performing arts to west-central Minnesota. The Barn
promotes community involvement, affords opportunities for personal
growth for its volunteers, displays and develops artistic talent,
and provides community leadership for the fine arts.
Community Theatre is a dynamic, live performing arts theater which was incorporated in Willmar,
Minnesota on September 29, 1964
Its volunteer board of directors purchased a nearby horse barn
and lot. Community support supplied the labor and supplies to transform
the vacant barn into a theater, thus, “The Barn” was
born. Three to five summer productions were given annually. In
1984 extensive renovations and improvements were required, which
prompted the board to explore other options. During the next four
years, space was rented from the Willmar Community College.
In January, 1987 the downtown JC Penney building was renovated
into the current site of The Barn Theatre. The new theater opened
on June 9, 1988. A winter season was added to the existing summer
season, thus six annual shows are presented. A five year lease
was signed with an option for four five year extensions.
Through the renovation process, volunteers created an art gallery
space. This space displays various original works of regional artists
during each production.
A Children’s workshop was started
in 1991. The class of 20-30 children in grades 5-8 allowed children
an opportunity to
participate in all the aspects of theater over a 6-7 week time
period. This workshop has produced musicals, and comedies appropriate
The Barn Theatre is nearing its 50th year of offering a wide range
of theatrical productions to this area. It is a regional theatre,
growing from its original roots of a community theater to a theater
that draws from up to and beyond a 60 mile radius. The Barn offers
volunteers of all ages an opportunity to participate in all aspects
of theater, using their talents to enrich their lives and of the
In the spring of 2002, the Barn continued to expand. The building
next to the current theater was purchased to provide additional
space and to extend programming. The Barn recently purchased the former Willmar Electric Service building with plans to provide more performing art and visual art programming opportunities for our community!