Leonard Elmhirst and his American wife Dorothy began their experiment in rural regeneration at Dartington Hall in 1920s. Dorothy’s passion was the arts, and one of her many initiatives was to establish the Playgoers, initially for the benefit of the community that lived and worked on the estate. The group began in 1946, and in their first year of productions (1948) they staged Noah, Medea and You Never Can Tell in the Barn Theatre (now the Barn Cinema). The theatre group gradually grew beyond the estate, and drew an active membership from all parts of south Devon. Playgoers continued to stage several high quality productions each year, including, from 1974, its iconic outdoor Shakespeare in the private garden of Dartington Hall, usually with a professional director. The society has also presented shows at venues outside the estate, including Totnes Castle, Bogan House and KEVICC.
Here's a list of all our main productions since 1948.
Present and future
Playgoers became rather more nomadic a few years ago, as both the private garden and the Barn became unavailable for live theatre, and we lost our semi-permanent rehearsal and meeting space. But in 2015 a new relationship with Dartington Hall began to blossom, and we are delighted to be back on the estate with a new home in Studio 31. This is a large, purpose-built fully-equipped rehearsal and performance space – our plans are just beginning to take shape, but we hope to develop a facility not just for Playgoers, but for amateur and professional groups across the region.
We try to stage two or three main productions each year, plus small-scale studio work in Bogan House, Totnes, and are always keen to grow our membership. Please get in touch with us via the contact page if you’d like to know more, or if you’re interested in using our exciting performance space.
Ready to join?
Download a membership form as a pdf document. Fill in your details and send to the address on the form with your subscription. You'll receive regular updates on all things Playgoers, and be entitled to join in all our activities, both on and off stage.
Dorothy Elmhirst in costume, painted by Walter Dean Goldbeck. Source: https://www.dartington.org/about/our-history/