On October 14th, 1963, a group of eight interested people met to form a “little theatre group” in Paducah, Kentucky. The first play presented by the Market House Players was The Male Animal at the IBEW Union Hall while negotiations were under way to use the Market House Building as a permanent home. The second play was produced in the Market House Building and the group has called it home ever since. The first year ended with three plays produced for a total of twelve performances.
In 1968, a fire nearly destroyed the building and a renovation was started to improve the facility.
The 1970′s saw a growth in the annual budgets from $2,500 to $50,000. The number of plays increased from four to six per season and the number of performances grew to thirty per year with audiences increasing to 8,000.
The 1980′s saw the hiring of full time staff and an increase in budgets from $65,000 to $125,000. Market House Theatre became a non-profit organization. In 1985, the “Footlights” program for children was developed and regular classes were added. Audiences continued to increase and by 1990 were reaching 15,000 plus.
From 1990 to 2000, the theatre saw phenomenal growth. It become a regional theatre drawing audiences from Western Kentucky, Southern Illinois, Southeastern Missouri and Western Tennessee. Market House Theatre has won national recognition with awards at every state competition it has entered.
Located in the historic Market House Building, the theatre has also been a centerpiece of historic restoration in downtown Paducah. With the acquisition of three additional buildings in 1996, the theatre became a community symbol of the drive to improve the historic Market House Square.
In 2010 the theatre began laying the ground work for the Next Stage Project to develop classrooms for Theatre, Dance, and Music. Organizational studies, facility needs studies, and business plans were developed. In 2014 the theatre quietly began fundraising and acquiring buildings. As of 2018 Market House Theatre now operates out of 11 historic buildings (10 of which the theatre owns). The theatre has ended its fiscal year in the black for the past 5 years while continuing to grow and now has educational programming in 4 states, in 14 counties, over 41 schools with almost 1300 classes and workshops and over 53,000 student interactions. In addition the theatre's productions have grown to almost 17 a year with Signature Series, Family Series, Playtime, Murder Mystery Dinner theatres, Touring Children's productions and more.
The Mission of the Market House Theatre is to enhance the quality of life in our community by providing a “hands on” artistic experience for people of all ages.
The Goals of the theatre are to provide a regular schedule of artistic opportunities in theatre for people of all ages; To provide education and training in theatre for people of all ages and to encourage participation in the arts as a way to enrich our community and teach valuable life lessons.