Our History

The Red Barn complex has a rich history – a carriage house for the wealthy, a barn for the mounted police cadre’s horses, and two incarnations as a professional theater.



Red Barn Beginnings

this hand-painted red barn theatre sign still hangs from the tree out front of the main theater entrance.

The Red Barn was originally built as a carriage house in 1829. When the advent of the automobile made the carriage house obsolete, the “barn” was adopted by the Key West Community Players, who offered a variety of plays on its stage throughout the 1940s. After World War II, the Community Players moved to the Waterfront Playhouse at Mallory Square while the little barn waited for its next chance to shine. In the 1960s, the Red Barn’s theatrical ambitions were revived by Ruth Guttman who, along with her husband Yehuda Guttman, presented wonderful puppet shows throughout the 1970s. Yehuda, a gifted concert pianist, also played many beautiful concerts at the Red Barn.

Red Barn Theatre is Born

dancer and singer, penny leto, and red barn theatre co-founder, mimi mcdonald stand dressed as nuns from an early red barn production

In 1980, a spirited group of actors and technicians renovated the theatre, opening the doors of the Red Barn Theatre under the incorporated name of the Red Barn Actors Studio, Inc. Mimi and Gary McDonald along with Joy Hawkins were a part of that original lively group, and their enthusiasm and love for the Red Barn Theatre is still an important part of what keeps the Red Barn growing! In 2002, the Red Barn underwent a $660,000 renovation to add permanent space for a rehearsal hall, scenery shop workspace, costume storage, dressing rooms, restrooms and a box office. Many members of the community pitched in and upon completion, the Red Barn won the prestigious Historic Preservation Award for architect Michael Miller’s inspired design and Deal Builders’ construction. Red Barn Theatre received a Star of Excellence for new construction from the Historic Florida Keys Foundation in 2004 and the Key West Chamber of Commerce awarded Red Barn Theatre a Beautification Certificate in 2005. Inside and out, the Red Barn Theatre is committed to excellence.

Red Barn Theatre Today

the facade of the red barn theatre, from the enclosed courtyard.

The Red Barn Theatre has become a cultural cornerstone for the Key West community while building a national reputation for creating BIG things in a small space. Many well-known and very talented people are a part of the Red Barn Theatre’s story. Richard Wilbur, the former U.S. Poet Laureate, worked with the Red Barn to produce his Moliere translations and Shel Silverstein, the gifted children’s writer, gave the Red Barn carte blanche to produce many of his very grown-up plays. Jimmy Buffett, Philip Burton, Terrence McNally, Jerry Herman, and Tennessee Williams have all made the Red Barn a part of their cultural experiences in Key West.

Both Delta Sky Magazine, website 2012 reaching 11 million viewers, and Destination Hyatt magazine 2012 distributed world wide in every Hyatt Hotel room, featured a tag line of “You’ll find Broadway-caliber theatre at the Red Barn Theatre.” As of April 2012, Tripadvisor.com rates Red Barn Theatre in their top 10 things to in Key West. Lonely Planet’s 2012 guidebook stated that Red Barn is “known throughout the Keys for producing top-notch entertainment.”