White Barn Theatre

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The White Barn Theatre was a small theater founded by actress, producer and theater impresario Lucille Lortel on the property of her estate in Norwalk, Connecticut that premiered numerous plays from major playwrights and plays that went on to successful Broadway and Off-Broadway runs.

Lortel founded The theater in 1947 on her 18.4-acre (74,000 m2) estate at the corner of Cranbury Road and Newtown Avenue. The estate straddled both Norwalk and Westport, with about 15.5 acres (63,000 m2) in Norwalk and 2.5 acres (10,000 m2) in Westport,[1] and the theater was sometimes called an institution in Westport, which has more ties to the theater than Norwalk. Lortel donated much of her memorabilia to the Westport Public Library.

With the theater, created from an old horse barn on the estate, Lortel aimed to present unusual and experimental plays, promote new playwrights, composers, actors, directors and designers, and help established artists develop new directions in ways they might not have been able to do in commercial theater.[2]

Stage works that started at the 148-seat[3] theater (some of which went on to commercial success elsewhere):[2]

Transfers to Off-Broadway from the White Barn Theatre include:[2]

Transfers to Broadway:[2]

Writing in The New York Times in connection with a gala event at the theater, Alvin Klein, said that the gala August 25, 1996 museum exhibition opening, allied stage performances and reception was "the night of the year [...] memories are made of this!"[2]

At another gala event a year later (August 31, 1997) in celebration of a half century of the theater and Lortel's career as a producer, Klien wrote in the Times, "[O]ver the years, Ms. Lortel — now in her 90's — has often been quoted as saying she won't take on another White Barn season. After Sunday's celebration she could be overheard inviting two well-known performers to 'put something together and come up to The Barn next summer.'"[2]

The Dublin Players of Ireland performed for several seasons at the White Barn with Milo O'Shea.

On September 26, 1992 the White Barn Theatre Museum was set up by expanding and renovating a former small storage area attached to the theater.[2]

The property after Lortel's death[edit]

Lortel bequeathed the property to her theater foundation, which later proposed putting a housing development and possibly a school on the site, something opposed by members of the Save Cranbury Association.[6]

In 2005, the state granted $450,000 to the Norwalk Land Conservation Trust Inc. to help preserve the parcel, which contains a pond, open fields, extensive wetlands and woodland. Stony Brook, a Class A stream, runs directly through the property and feeds a nearby aquifer.[1]

The property was sold in 2006 for $4.8 million to 78 Cranberry Road LLC according to Westport Now Magazine.[7]

In 2008, the property was purchased by the Connecticut Friends School in nearby Wilton. The school plans to build an expanded school building campus on the property.[8]

In 2015, Jim Fieber of Special Properties II submitted a plan to build a 21-home conservation development on the property, as the Connecticut Friends School could not raise the money for their project. Fieber subsequently amended the plan to a 15-home conservation development. The Norwalk Zoning Commission is considering the proposal.[9] Norwalk historians are attempting to save artwork they believe was done by the late Geoffrey Holder, as the proposal includes demolishing the theater.[10]


  1. ^ a b "Governor Rell Presents $6.8 Million for Open Space Grants in 24 Communities" State of Connecticut, Gov. M. Jodi Rell archive. Press release (November 17, 2005). Retrieved June 27, 2011
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Lortel biography Lucille Lortel Foundation. Retrieved June 27, 2011
  3. ^ "The Arboretum" (PDF) Wilton, Connecticut Religious Society of Friends newsletter (May 2006). Retrieved April 17, 2007
  4. ^ a b c https://news.google.com/newspapers?id=xAAhAAAAIBAJ&sjid=QHYFAAAAIBAJ&pg=2227,820944&dq=langston+hughes+white+barn&hl=en
  5. ^ https://select.nytimes.com/gst/abstract.html?res=FB0817FF395A177B93C7AB178CD85F438585F9
  6. ^ "Save Cranbury Association" Save Cranbury Association, Retrieved April 17, 2007
  7. ^ Jennifer Connic, "White Barn Theatre Property Sold for $4.8 Million" WestportNOW.com (May 30, 2006). Retrieved June 27, 2011
  8. ^ "White Barn Campus" Connecticut Friends School. Retrieved June 27, 2011
  9. ^ https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2015/08/white-barn-developer-hits-back-hard-at-zoning-commission-public-hearing/ considering the proposal
  10. ^ https://www.nancyonnorwalk.com/2015/09/norwalk-historians-hope-to-preserve-at-least-part-of-white-barn-theater/

External links[edit]

Coordinates: 41°09′04″N 73°23′28″W / 41.151°N 73.391°W / 41.151; -73.391 (White Barn Theatre)