In October, 2010, we celebrated the heritage that Flat Rock Playhouse has created for Henderson County and the state of North Carolina in the world of theatre and the arts. Displays, memorabilia, and multimedia depicted the history of the Playhouse and its vital role in the history of Hendersonville and Henderson County.
Flat Rock Playhouse, designated in 1961 as The State Theatre of North Carolina, had an humble beginning as the dream child of the man often referred to as ” The Original Vagabond.” In 1936 Robroy Farquhar, in faraway New York City, merged the talents of various itinerant players into the dramatic troupe that became The Vagabond Players.
True to their name, the troupe wandered to different performance sites, traveling from Pennsylvania to Florida, first coming to Hendersonville after hearing of the western North Carolina town’s existence during one of their stints in Florida. Their first appearance in Flat Rock was in the summer of 1940, performing in an old grist mill at Highland Lake they had converted into the Old Mill Playhouse. Because of their success that summer, they returned the next.
World War II interrupted the growth spurt of the Vagabond Players as Robin Farquhar, the troupe’s leader, was drafted. When the group reunited, they opened a playhouse in nearby Lake Summit and performed there in the summers until 1951.
The troupe did not have a permanent home until 1952, when they set up a rented big top on part of the eight-acre tract they had bought in the Village of Flat Rock, and considered themselves at home.
Farquhar continued to lead the group forward to its designation as the Theatre of Western North Carolina in 1959, and eventually the State Theatre of North Carolina. During these years Robroy had married Leona Fraki, once the housemother and food manager of the Players. Their son Robin grew up in the theatre, and later became the Playhouse’s Executive Artistic Director. In addition to the musicals, comedies, and dramas that the Players staged over the years, The Playhouse also developed a program for young people, and in 2007 officially announced the birth of YouTheatre Education Center, the dream child of another Farquhar — Robin Farquhar, the son of the original co-founders.
The Farquhar family left a theatrical legacy to the mountains and the state, but the legacy of the Playhouse is enriched by the contributions of numerous actors and actresses, children in big parts and bit parts, stagehands, students, volunteers producers and directors, prop artists, and willing believers in the magic that is theatre.
To view a more detailed timeline of the intriguing history of the Flat Rock Playhouse and its legacy, go to the Playhouse’s website at flatrockplayhouse.org, but be sure to visit our featured Exhibit of Flat Rock Playhouse: A Legacy in the Bo Thomas Room of the Henderson County Heritage Museum. The display, originally conceived as a smaller project by Heritage Museum Program Director Tom Orr, expanded under the cultivation of Flat Rock Playhouse Board Members and the visionary and artistic hard work of the Playhouse Production staff. What emerged is a multi-media exhibit that includes photographs, theatrical equipment, costumes, and props from the illustrious legacy of The Playhouse.