What we are now!
The Ferndale Repertory Theatre is the oldest and largest of the North Coast’s resident community theatres, having its beginning as Ferndale Little Theater in 1972. It is located in the small Victorian Village of Ferndale, in the historic Hart Theatre building, built in 1920.
FRT produces 6 main stage shows a year, plus special music and film events. With a dedicated Board of Directors and a cadre of multi-talented volunteers, Ferndale Repertory Theatre is an active part of the Humboldt area art scene.
History of the Ferndale Repertory Theatre
The Ferndale Repertory Theatre is the oldest and largest of the North Coast's resident community theatres. It is located in the small Victorian Village of Ferndale, in the historic Hart Theatre building, built in 1920. Most theatre companies start with a core group of actors and directors looking for a place to perform... sometimes that mean a storefront, a church basement or a school auditorium. In Ferndale, the theatre building came first, supported by a community that, in turn, invited in actors, directors and other artists.
By the early 1970s, the Hart Theatre building had been vacant for nearly 15 years. The community of Ferndale was experiencing an artistic boom, with scores of artists living and working in the town. When a group of Ferndale residents became excited by the possibility of renovating the old movie theatre as a play house, a remarkable and energetic community came together, including businesspeople, merchants, artists, Navy personnel, farmers, and ranchers. Thus the Ferndale Little Theater was formed in 1972. In 1979, the current Artistic Director proposed developing a repertory company and renamed the theater Ferndale Repertory Theater. Although the repertory company was only in operation for a short time, the name endured.
Among the early believers was Mrs. Harris (Marty) Connick, who led the effort, and Tom Dimmick, owner of the Hart Theatre building. Mr. Dimmick not only helped to fund the renovation work, but eventually sold the building to the non-profit group at a figure far below market value, finally gifting the building to the theatre group upon his death in 1998. Mr. Dimmick's generosity provided the company with a stable home, thus helping to ensure its continued success.
The Hart Theatre Building
The First World War was over, the soldiers were home, and the worldwide influenza epidemic of 1918 was beginning to fade, when heirs of the Hart estate determined to build a fine new theatre especially for the showing of motion pictures.
Located on the former site of Alford's Drug Store on Ferndale's Main Street, the new building wasn't even finished when Ferndale's Postmaster Erickson declared that it blocked out the daylight so that he could "no longer do Uncle Sam's business at his present location." A few months after his complaint, which was front page news in the Ferndale Enterprise in the fall of 1920, postal inspectors agreed and the post office was moved out of the shadow to a new location.
The audiences, however, praised the new theatre as ideal. It was one of the first theatres in northern California built specifically for the showing of motion pictures. Leased by the P&B Motion Picture Circuit, The Hart Theatre opened on December 8, 1920, with a showing of "The Mollycoddle", a lavish silent adventure comedy with Douglas Fairbanks, accompanied by a pianist hired from the Minor Theatre in Arcata. There was also a live show with "The Musical Thoms" (musical novelties galore) consisting of violin imitations and popular music played on ordinary bottles and soup bones. Admission was a quarter for adults and fifteen cents for children.
The Hart Theatre was in continual use for almost forty years, hosting touring vaudeville companies as well as showing movies. Many Ferndale couples fondly recall their first date at the Hart. The movie house closed in 1956, and the building was vacant until 1972, when it was reborn as a community theatre during an era of particularly rich artistic growth.
The small community of Ferndale boasted as many as five theatres dating back to the 1870s. The Hart is the only one still in use. Despite a serious fire, many renovations, countless owners and several financial breakdowns over the years, it still stands today. And although it stopped showing movies, the building was never converted to other uses. It has remained a theatre for nearly a century.