Since 1951, the Melon Patch Players have been dedicated to providing high quality entertainment to enrich the quality of life for all the citizens in our community, while providing educational opportunities to expand the community's appreciation and love of the theatrical arts, and providing encouragement to the general public to use their creative, artistic, and technical talents in performances and productions.
To date, the Melon Patch Players have produced around 400 live stage productions, with talent from across the Central Florida region showcased in song, dance, drama, and comedy. The Melon Patch Theatre's auditorium has further served as the venue for a variety of the Leesburg community's events, both public and private, while our Youth Program continues to offer arts education through a consistently high level of training and participation in the performing arts.
In 1951, Emily Faulhaber, a member of the Leesburg (FL) Junior Women's Club, had an entertaining idea. Mrs. Faulhaber shared her dream with two other of Leesburg's mid-century movers and shakers, Ruby Herlong and Mildred Howard. The "little theater" [sic] idea began making headlines when an article urging locals to attend a founders' meeting appeared in Leesburg's Daily Commercial that same year.
And so it all began.
The Leesburg Women's Club offered use of their building for organizational meetings and rehearsals.
Several names were considered for this fledgling theatre. At the time, Leesburg was considered the watermelon capital of Florida, and its citizens celebrated an annual Watermelon Festival. With that in mind, Ruth A. Lockett came up with the winning contest entry: "The Melon Patch Theatre".
The first shows produced by the Melon Patch Players were performed at the Lee Elementary School auditorium, the troupe later employing the The Women's Club and Leesburg's Community Building for productions.
In 1955, the City of Leeburg donated the property at 311 North 13th Street — the site of Leesburg's first high school (1892) — to the Melon Patch Players, with bonds sold to finance the construction of the theatre building. Much volunteer time and labor were needed to build the facility, but later that same year, the Melon Patch Players were able to celebrate their first production in their new home, Caroline Francke's Father of the Bride, directed by Frances Lovell.
Over the years, the Melon Patch Theatre's structures have expanded to include an administrative space, a lobby and refreshments corner, and four outbuildings for housing properties and costumes.
Amongst those who early on helped to establish the Melon Patch Theatre, was actress, historian, former board member, and co-founder Sara Barcus. In honor of her untiring support, the annual awards ceremony for theatrical excellence, presented by the Melon Patch Players at the end of each season, are officially recognized as the Sara Awards.