Are you looking for Broadway-caliber performances at a fraction of New York City prices? What about a beautiful outdoor setting to explore and enjoy while listening to eclectic showtunes and beloved standards? Get the biggest bang for your buck at Barn Theatre.
You may have heard of this world-famous summer stock theater once or twice before, typically in the same breath as name-dropped Hollywood celebrities and Broadway icons, from Jennifer Garner to Jonathan Larson. It’s all true—marketing director and co-owner Penelope Alex Ragotzy has seen plenty of soon-to-be famous faces come and go out of their theater’s barn doors. What’s launched so many young artists, lovingly called “Barnies,” to that level of stardom has been the company’s longstanding apprenticeship program and the important connections each apprentice makes throughout the summer.
“Barnies act right alongside all these professionals, and they’re learning,” Ragotzy said. “They can and do, very often, get lead roles. With the Barn on their resume, it’s a win-win-win all the way around.”
Suffice it to say, Barnies are everywhere! Roughly 1,500 talented people have come through the program since its inception in 1993, and even more participated during the theater’s previous 45 years.
What hasn’t changed over time, however, is the total effect the Barn Theatre can have on its participants by the season’s close.
“Throughout the summer, everyone grows so much, simply through doing it day after day,” Ragotzy said. “They turn into a different performer, as well as a different person. It’s a busy, busy schedule at the Barn.”
This season, audiences have already enjoyed both fan-favorites and new arrivals to the Barn Theatre, including their recent production of 2010 Best Musical nominee Million Dollar Quartet.
“That’s one of those nostalgic, wonderful shows that’s come to life from a real moment in history,” Ragotzy said. “Carl Perkins, Elvis Presley, Johnny Cash and Jerry Lee Lewis happened to be in the studio altogether, and they happened to record it. It’s this great show and it was very successful for us.”
Some other new additions to the Barn’s repertoire will be introduced this month and next, including Escape to Margaritaville and the recent stageplay adaptation of Clue. What these shows have in-common is their widespread appeal and, in the case of the musicals, well-known catchy tunes.
“What we try to do per season is really give all of our demographic something they’d like,” Ragotzy said. “Also in there, too, is something that would challenge our audience and broaden their horizons.”
One particularly adventurous piece for Ragotzy is their upcoming world premiere of The Gift, an original play about one woman’s ability to see the future when touching another person’s hand. When her own daughter’s life is thrown into the mix, the play’s characters begin to question whether or not this gift is a blessing or a curse.
“We feel strongly about having a good mix for our audience, including a new work if we possibly can,” Ragotzy said. “We fulfill all of that this season.”
And if you arrive to the Barn hungry, Ragotzy recommends stopping by their very own pizza kitchen, Back 40 Pizza. A bar nearby is also open before each mainstage show, and patrons are encouraged to bring their beverages inside with them as they enjoy the performance. Seated comfortably among three tiers in an auditorium fit for more than 400 people, the Barn boasts an entire evening of quality entertainment and leisure. This is especially true if you stick around for their post-show cabaret, known as the Bar Show—featuring first-year apprentices (some of whom had just performed in the mainstage show not an hour before) singing show tune classics and serving food and drinks.
“From the minute you turn into our parking lot, there are Barnies telling you where to park your car, Barnies in the box office and Barnies ushering that you’ll then see onstage,” Ragotzy said.
No matter the night, the Barn Theatre staff and performers each pitch in, working alongside each other to make every production the best it can possibly be. And with some of the country’s top young talents and working professionals in the industry coming back to the Barn every year, would you expect anything less? By the time curtains rise, merely two weeks have been given to the summer’s apprentices and guest actors to put on each new production. Hundreds of actors apply each year for those positions, but only 20 or so make the cut.
If you want to see the future of Broadway’s brightest stars today, make a night out at Barn Theatre while you still can this summer.
13351 M-96, Augusta
The Wizard of Oz, Aug. 1-13
Escape to Margaritaville, Aug. 15-27
Nunsense, Aug. 29-Sept. 3