The current organization was founded in the year 2000 to restore, repair, and maintain the historic Franklin Opera House, and provide performing arts programming for our citizens. Franklin Opera House presents a broad range of quality arts and entertainment—something for everyone… from serious drama to light-hearted musical theatre, from folk artists to rock and everything in between, from classical guitarists to comedic accordion players—Franklin Opera House has something for every taste.
Beyond its excellent acoustical qualities and intimate feel, the flat orchestra level and flexible seating of the Franklin Opera House make it a truly distinctive venue, suitable for more varied forms of entertainment than most other venues can accommodate.
Comfortable, intimate, distinctive, affordable — quality performing arts for Franklin and surrounding communities in Central New Hampshire.
A Proud History and a Bright Future
In the 1890's the Franklin, NH town leaders focused their attention on quality of life issues for their vibrant, vital, successful community. By 1892 they had planned and started construction of a new Town and Soldier's Memorial Hall. Designed by William Butterfield in the Romanesque Revival style, the red granite and brick building included Town offices, the police and water departments, the city court, a theatre and function hall.
It was soon affectionately referred to as "The Opera House." The term "Opera", in the late 1890's was commonly used to refer to many forms of musical and theatrical entertainment. Small "Opera" Houses like the Franklin Opera House, although not large enough to host a full-scale Opera Company, accommodated many smaller performances as well as individual Opera singers.
Immediately after its opening and for the next 50 years, the Franklin Opera House became a venue for balls, dances, lectures, plays, musicals, vaudeville shows, concerts, school productions and graduation ceremonies.
After World War II, as the country began to tune into television and respond to commercial cinema, use of the Opera House declined. At the same time, the needs of city government grew.
The police department expanded throughout the lower level, and district court offices were constructed on the stage. By 1970 administrative offices encroached into the auditorium until the balcony and stage were no longer visible to those attending meetings in what was to become City Council Chambers. The Franklin "Opera House," once an important and vital social center of the community, ceased to provide the entertainment for which it was designed. In 1999, however, with the vision of residents like Norma Schofield and Steve Foley, the City Hall began the transformation back into the Opera House once again.
What started as the Franklin Opera House Restoration Committee evolved by 2000 to become a nonprofit corporation, Franklin Opera House, Inc. And in 2001, the first shows in 30 years lit up the proscenium and breathed life into this grand old building. Since that time we have provided performance opportunities for hundreds of people in our community - children, youth, and adults - entertained thousands of guests, and provided numerous educational programs as well as our summer FACT program (Franklin Area Children's Theater).
The Opera House also provides a home for Franklin Footlight Theatre, a community theatre group founded in 1995 through the efforts of Jule C. Finley and a number of talented high school students. It was the energy and drive of the Footlight Theatre group that prompted the Opera House Restoration Committee to start their work because of the rejuvenation of performing arts in Franklin. Today, Franklin Footlight Theatre is a distinct organization comprised of community members of all ages whose purpose is to have fun by working together as a family, to provide artistic and cultural opportunities while strengthening unity and knowledge with surrounding organizations, as well as opportunity for communal and individual growth in a friendly, accepting atmosphere.
As we enter a new phase in our journey, we hope to build on the successes of the last few years and find new ways to preserve our wonderful "opera house" to promote Franklin and to enrich the community.
Dan Darling came to Franklin in 2012 with a background as a professional stage manager, theater technician, and video producer. Eager to get involved with the Opera House, he performed in a production of A Christmas Carol with Footlight Theatre, then became a member and President of the Opera House Board of Directors, and now works for the Board as Executive Director. It is a role he says he relishes and continues to learn more every day.
A Team of Volunteers
As a non-profit volunteer organization committed to fostering the performing arts, we benefit greatly from the dedication and sacrifice of many people, including our Board of Directors. Members of our Board serve 3-year terms and are elected on a rotating basis each year at our Annual Meeting. We are always seeking engaged citizens who have interest or expertise in any aspect of running the organization and fulfilling our mission. If you would like to be a member our the Board, contact us or attend our next Annual Meeting on June 9, 2022 at 6:30 pm. Current members include:
Term of Service
Jeff Perkins, president
Carol Hodgdon, treasurer
Valerie Perkins, secretary
Leigh Webb, vice-president
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