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May 17, 2012 | 12:00 a.m. CST
Fiddler on the Roof
WHERE: Nifong Park; Maplewood Barn Community Theatre
WHEN: May 24-27, May 31-June 3, June 7-10
COST: $9 adults, $1 kids under 10
After 40 years of people and performances, not even a fire could extinguish Maplewood Barn Community Theatre’s love for the local playhouse. Two years ago, the more-than-140-year-old barn that the program called home went up in flames. Now the performance space has a new barn, a new show and a 40th anniversary to celebrate.
1. The Maplewood Barn was built in the 1870s. The theater company moved into the space in 1973. The debut season included 12 performances.
2. In April 2010, the barn burned to the ground. The cause is unknown.
3. The cost to rebuild the barn was estimated to be $350,000.
4. The barn was completed under budget, coming in at $304,000.
Byron Scott has been with the program for more than 20 years and has directed and performed for half the life of the theater. “This will be the 34th show that I’ve been in or directed,” Scott says. “For me, losing the barn was almost like losing my own house.”
Maplewood Barn will open the season in their new space with Fiddler on the Roof. With a cast of more than 35 people, Maplewood Barn will perform it for the first time in 22 years.
“The first song in Fiddler is ‘Tradition,’” Scott says. “I couldn’t think of any better word to describe what Maplewood is all about.”
The barn, which was on the National Register of Historic Places before the fire, was built in the 1870s. Maplewood Barn Community Theatre moved into the building in 1973. “We basically lost everything in the fire,” Director Molly Dodge says. “Not basically. We lost everything.”
With the help of sister theaters in the area and donations, the theater was able to continue performing on the site of the barn during its two-year absence but without a building to call home.
“A lot of people thought we were done when the fire took place, but we never gave up,” Scott says. “In a sense we never left, but it’s good to have our old partner, the barn, back with us.”
The 3,000-square-foot barn was built on the footprint of the original in Nifong Park. But Mike Griggs, assistant director of Columbia Parks and Recreation Department, says the new barn is not just a replica of the original wood barn.
“In addition to overall electrical improvements, the new barn has concrete floors, steel doors, insulation, restrooms, fire suppression and instead of a wood exterior, it is constructed with a product called Hardie board — a cement product that is extremely resistant to fire yet resembles wood siding,” Griggs says.
Scott says that before the fire, actors used to dress in the old stalls of the barn and the props and scenery were kept in hayracks.
“I guess I’ll miss the critters who used to share the old barn with us, including the mud daubers in the ceiling,” he says.
The 2012 summer season will also feature productions of How the Other Half Loves, Hamlet and Wait Until Dark.
“It will kind of be like uncovering old friends,” Dodge says of moving into the new space.
Assistant Director Russ Scott says there is just no other theater like it. The audience sits outside to watch performances in and around the barn.
To commemorate Maplewood Barn Community Theatre’s 40th anniversary and the opening of the new barn, Byron Scott has created a book of photographs titled Barnies: Forty Years of Theatre Under the Stars at Maplewood Barn.
“The book is written from the standpoint of the people,” he says. “It is the people that make communities here.”