Towne & Country Players was founded in 1966 at the Townsend Elementary School in the Margaretta Schools district when two schools merged.
Townsend, located north of Vickery, was the site of concerts and Broadway shows presented by the Players for five years.
Eventually the group bought land and built a barn theater on the corner of Wahl and Crystal Rock roads, and operated for two years before moving to the old Historic Schine Theater in downtown Norwalk.
According to founder and executive producer, Ronn Koerper, the group was the first in Ohio to buy an old operating movie theater and convert it into a performing arts center.
"We were on the front edge of the theater restoration fad," Koerper said.
Towne & Country Players is beginning its 44th season of family entertainment with an educational mission opening with "Big Band Matinee" presented by the Ohio State University Big Band.
The Players "are now back in school performing arts centers because the current economy cannot support the old theaters any longer," Koerper said.
"Our operation helps the schools we are in and the artists we present."
Additionally, the third annual "Firelands Idol" preliminaries begin in Bellevue in January, then move to Norwalk, with the finals in the Edison High School Little Theatre, Milan.
Winners will appear in the Neil Diamond tribute concert April 24 at the Norwalk High School Performing Arts Center.