New Harmony Theatre History
New Harmony Theatre is a program of the University of Southern Indiana. NHT has grown in prominence to become a major regional theatre that attracts the best professional theatre artists from all over the country.
History of the Establishment
While New Harmony Theatre has been produced by the University of Southern Indiana since 1988, theatre has been an important part of New Harmony since the very early days of the town. Robert Owen's son, William, established the first theatre in New Harmony in 1827. During the second half of the nineteenth century, the town was the home and headquarters of the Goldens, a distinguished family of theatre professionals who thrived well into the twentieth century. Murphy Auditorium was built in 1914 and is the main stage for the current program. University of Southern Indiana began producing New Harmony Theatre at the request of Mrs. Jane Blaffer Owen, following the financial struggles of the independent non-profit company that had been producing in Murphy Auditorium. NHT began using guest artists from Actors' Equity Association, which is the union of professional actors, in 1989, and signed a Professional Theatre Contract with that union in 1990.
The theatre has continued to grow since that time. In 2001, New Harmony Theatre was promoted to more well-respected contract level with Actors' Equity Association. This change demonstrated NHT's ongoing commitment to attracting the highest quality performers for its summer productions, including many Broadway veterans. As a reflection on NHT's commitment to creating an excellent working environment for artists, three actors wrote a joint letter to the membership of Actors' Equity Association which was published in the monthly newsletter, Equity News. The letter cited "the caring and generosity" of the NHT and the "committed, happy and infectious" spirit of the place. The letter concluded, "If you get a chance to work at NHT, you will love it." As a result, New Harmony Theatre received a small but rarely-awarded grant from the Actors' Equity Foundation.
In 2005, the growing prestige of New Harmony Theatre assured that it would have the honor of producing the world premiere of a new play by noted dramatist Thom Thomas. A Moon to Dance By was well-received by audiences and critics, and brought producers from The Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. and from New York to New Harmony.