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The Benefit of Supporting Private Performing Arts

 

Unique performing arts venues add to the creative resources and the quality of place today’s communities value and desperately seek.

The unique association with Amish Acres has allowed The Round Barn Theatre to grow into a major regional theatre in this most unlikely of places. Behind its rustic façade and easy, informal atmosphere is a state-of-the-art theatre with the sets, costumes, lights, sound and talent of many metropolitan venues.

Amish Acres is the only Amish farmstead in America listed in the National Register of Historic Places. It is dedicated to the preservation and restoration of the original farm buildings and the relocation of other historical structures from surrounding farms. Historic and cultural interpretation educates outsiders to the lifestyles of the unique Amish society. Culinary and performing arts are incorporated into the Amish Acres experience to bring nostalgia, joy, and hope for a more understanding and tolerant world in the future.

Amish Acres is a family owned business, entering its third generation, dedicated to the preservation of the Stahly-Nissley-Kuhns farmstead and the historical interpretation of Amish society, through documentary films, guided docent tours, fine, culinary, and performing arts plus crafts and quilts in the hand made traditions.

The Round Barn Theatre at Amish Acres is Indiana’s only resident professional repertory musical theatre. It is rustic, casual, informal, relaxed, cozy, and intimate, in the tradition of Tanglewood, Ravinia, Stratford Shakespeare Festival, the Shaw Festival, even Wolf Trap; a retreat from the formal trappings of metropolitan venues, both historical and contemporary. You’ll never miss a line, lyric, or facial expression. Seats are black ergonomic contour chairs that hint of the solid benches of an Amish church service. They are surprisingly spacious and comfortable, particularly now that padded seat cushions have been added. Aisles are half again as wide as a standard theatre floor plan. Each production is custom designed for the theatre’s unique sight lines.

The Round Barn Theatre is a round theatre, not a theatre in the round, so often associated with summer stock playhouses that run from Memorial Day to Labor Day, with ten day productions, shorter rehearsals, college actors, no sets, and lesser known comedies and dramas thrown in to keep expenses low. The Round Barn Theatre, on the other hand, features full scale sets and counterweight fly system; it is a nine month season of long running productions. Actors are playing in two shows while rehearsing for a third throughout the season, usually working twelve hour days honing their art and craft. Four week rehearsals are more than double summer stock production runs!

Threshers Dinner and Round Barn Theatre packages should not be confused with dinner theatres, where dinner is served, often buffet style, prior to the show on a relatively small stage built into the restaurant; an arrangement filled with compromises in both quailty of the food service and production values.

Neither should the Round Barn Theatre be compared to venues that feature in-house musical revues or outside acts. The entire theatre is dedicated to one mission: producing family friendly musical comedies from the Golden Era of Broadway, the universally agreed upon period from Rogers and Hammerstein's Oklahoma! in 1943 and ending with Stein, Bock, and Harnick's Fiddler on the Roof in 1964.

Combining Amish Acres, Plain and Fancy, and the Round Barn Theatre makes the complex perhaps the unique musical theatre experience in the country.

Plain and Fancy has been produced by the Round Barn Theatre for nineteen years, making it one of the longest running plays in America.

You won’t find a more convenient, casual, informal, family-friendly, up close, easy-to- reserve-seats theatre. You will find the air fresh, the seats comfortable (to most), and the rustic patina and homey, historical, and country flavor relaxing. You’ll meet the actors following each show and at receptions, previews, readings, and second stage productions. It’s simply delightful! And every musical is filled with stories of life, love, irony, tolerance, understanding, and peace among all men and women; it can’t get better than that.

Broadway producers, directors, composers, lyricists, who have won Tony and Academy Awards for their work, have made pilgrimages to The Round Barn Theatre bringing recognition for The Round Barn Theatre and within the national theatrical community.

Plain and Fancy was co-written by Joseph Stein with music composed by Alexander Hague, the first work for each. Both lyricist and composer have paid visits to Amish Acres. Mr. Hague, who starred in the movie and television series Fame as the bearded, bow-tied, German music teacher, won a Tony for his later musical Redhead. Mr. Stein wrote the books for numerous other musicals including Zorba, The Baker’s Wife, Take Me Along, Rags, and his masterpiece, Fiddler on the Roof. As of 2006 seven of Stein's works will have been produced at Amish Acres in one of its venues and formats. The Round Barn Theatre stage was dedicated to Mr. Stein in 1997. He remains the theatre’s guiding light and inspiration.

It is fascinating and educational to watch actors and a stage being transformed before your eyes, moving from one story in a time and place to another.

The Round Barn Theatre produces five additional musical each season that run in repertory with Plain and Fancy. Thus the same actors perform in two shows on the same stage in the same day. Between shows “change over” means over 1,000 changes of sets, props, and costumes from one show are stored and replaced by the sets, props, and costumes of a second show. There are no more than a handful of repertory musical theatres in the nation.

The variety of musicals performed on The Joseph Stein Stage is a tribute to the creative energy dedicated to bringing the best of America’s musicals to life.

Fifty three major Broadway musical have been produced in the last decade, an unprecedented number for any theatre in the nation.

The creative energy of the nationally recruited cast overflows into all of Amish Acres and the community.

The core company is selected from auditions held in New York City each February. The select group lives on the Amish Acres campus in three houses.

Newer works are introduced into the area for the first time by a professional company.

A costumed staged reading of a musical with the potential to become a main stage production is presented for season subscribers each season.

The success of the main stage musicals permits the experimentation with dramatic works that would not be financially feasible.

A second stage production of a drama or comedy is presented four weekends for the theatre’s subscription patrons in the Locke Township Meeting House where Plain and Fancy began nineteen years ago.

As more and more theatres move toward recorded music, the live orchestra at The Round Barn Theatre becomes even more appreciated.

Each show is accompanied by a live orchestra that performs from a loft above stage left.

The creative team is an integral part of Amish Acres.

Scott Saegesser is the artistic director of the theatre. Richard Pletcher, founder/CEO of Amish Acres, is the producer. Michelle Bouchard is production stage manager, Kristi Knoblock is assistant stage manager, Ryan Claus is orchestra manager, Kristin Yoder is company manager, Nate Rux is sound designer and electrician, David Castenada is lighting designer, and Sandy Coffman is box office manager. Jeremy Littlejohn is director of second stage productions.

Shows are chosen for their message, music, and charm. The story will always be the focus of any production and not all stories are pretty and end happily ever after, just like real life.

The Round Barn Theatre features musicals from Broadway’s Golden Era, beginning with Oklahoma! in 1943 and ending with Fiddler on the Roof in 1968. Newer musicals come to the stage because they meet the criteria of family shows from that era. You won’t see Rent, Hair, or The Full Monty on the Round Barn Theatre stage. You may see shows which we will rate (PG13) for your information. Those few shows, in our opinion, have redeeming values that make them suited for our audiences and venue. Family friendly remains a relative label and each parent is responsible for choosing the shows they want their children to see.

Plain and Fancy, the story of a New York couple come to Bird-in-Hand, Pennsylvania, to sell their inherited farm to Amish patriarch Jacob Yoder, is filled with the hilarious clash of cultures, love of parent for child, family solidarity, humor, confusion, and resolution. The universal themes of life, love, stubbornness, forgiveness, infatuation, flirtation, the old versus the new, change and response to it, and, of course, tradition, are on full display in this delightful musical, the first to open on Broadway for the 1955 season. 2005 celebrates the 50th anniversary of this charming tale. Everyone one leaves Plain and Fancy with a smile on their face.

Each show transforms the stage into a new and unexplored world.

When you come to the Round Barn Theatre there is a buzz of anticipation in the air.

Fresh looks at familiar material make the theatre vibrant and vital.

Whether a well know, well worn classic or a new work fresh from the boards of Broadway, a Round Barn Theatre production will add a twist to the tried and true.

Its universal themes speak to every age and culture.

Whether in the set design, directing, choreography, costumes, or special effects, your time will be spent in the moment of the fresh and new. Plain and Fancy is attended by patrons from many lands.

Each generation must be introduced to the classical literature, music, and performing arts of each generation to maintain connected to the evolving genius of the past as they invent the future.

Just as Beethoven’s ninth symphony, perhaps the greatest of them all, is played thousands of time each orchestra season around the world, Fiddler on the Roof and other classic musicals are on stage somewhere around the world without interruption.

Round barns go beyond the practical to the romantic making them rare and treasured.

The Round Barn itself is a work of art and craftsmanship worthy of a visit even when the stage is dark. It was built in 1911 by Frank Aker, donated by the Schrome family, and moved from twelve miles away, reconstructed, and transformed into an exquisite performing arts center. Its 60 foot diameter self-supporting dome is majestic and a tribute to the ingenuity and resourcefulness of early pioneer farm families. Its conversion from a barn housing cows, horses, pigs, and chickens with hay and straw in the mow into its present state of the art theatre is a further tribute to the continuing ingenuity of current generations.

The Round Barn Theatre is a major economic component of the Nappanee community. Each of its six shows approaches a $200,000 production.

The Round Barn Theatre supports a full production company. The theatre designs, builds, and decorates its own sets. The costume shop houses over 3,000 costumes, many of which are rented to other theatres across the country. Props masters have collected a huge inventory of props from vintage typewriters and televisions to lamps and silver trays for food and drinks.

A full time professional performing arts organization adds variety to the manufacturing economy of the area.

Resident lighting and sound designers are dedicated to the theatre. The technical staff includes a production stage manager, stage manager, orchestra manager, and company manager.

Interns have opportunities that exist few places to test their aptitude, skills, and desires for a career in show business.

An intern program brings the brightest high school musical and dramatic students into summer shows. They complete their tenure with a showcase of their abilities and how they have been enhanced on the stage of the Round Barn Theatre.

No other performing arts venue in Northern Indiana is providing more access to Theatre for Young Audiences than The Round Barn Theatre.

Theatre for Young Audiences brings over 10,000 elementary, secondary, and high school students annually to see productions the likes of Plain and Fancy, Charlotte’s Web, Tom Sawyer, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat, You’re a Good Man, Charlie Brown, Winnie the Pooh, and Beauty and the Beast.

St. Mary’s College at Notre Dame Fine Arts Camp fills the theatre with young girls aspiring to excel in the arts and often find inspiration in the theatre’s summer production.

The Round Barn Theatre brings variety and the benefits of not-for-profit theatres to northern Indiana through a private institution.

With Broadway tickets now at $100 per ticket, The Round Barn Theatre’s $30 tickets are very reasonable and family affordable. Children’s prices of $6 (4 to 17) are intentionally below first run movie prices to encourage parents to expose children to the mystical magic of live musical theatre at an early age. A popular cooperative program between The Round Barn Theatre and Lake City Bank underwrites one half priced tickets for college students.

The continuing support of the community that is necessary to insure the success of The Round Barn Theatre is crucial and rewarded with many extra benefits.

Season subscribers receive numerous benefits for their support. A preview buffet introduces patrons to the coming new season with music from the five repertory shows chosen. Free tickets are given to the upcoming Holiday season show, the annual staged reading, second stage production, and Amish Acres Arts and Crafts Festival. Even half priced hotel rooms and an Amish Acres VIP card are included along with ticket exchange privileges.

The talented actors and technical staff of The Round Barn Theatre give back generously to the community and enrich its performing arts programs.
Nappanee has become a colony of performing artists who take their talent into the community and enrich it through assisting area high school programs at NorthWood, Northridge, Goshen, and Penn. Many talented teachers from the same high school drama departments have performed and starred in Round Barn Theatre productions. A close association with Bethel College provides its aspiring actors with on stage experience and classroom tips on the crucial and intimidating auditioning process presented by Scott Saegesser. Jonathon Sabo, director, Bethel’s Performing Arts Department, often designs sets for The Round Barn Theatre. The Round Barn Theatre has ties directly to Broadway.

In addition to close ties with Joseph Stein, numerous actors who have played the Joseph Stein Stage have risen to the bright lights of the Broadway stage. Currently Dirk Lumbard (Music Man, Man of LaMancha, director of Singin’ in the Rain and Wizard of Oz) is one of the “inventors” in Chitty, Chitty, Bang, Bang on Broadway as he stands in for the lead, the same role he fulfilled in the recent revival of The Music Man as well as Imaginary Friends. Steven Schwartz, composer of The Baker’s Wife and collaborator of The Round Barn Theatre’s production, has Broadway’s hottest show Wicked, which is now open on a permanate basis in Chicago as well. Steven’s son, Scott, who directed The Baker’s Wife, is now an established Broadway director, most recently of the revival of The Foreigner. Peter Ojuay starred as Gabby in On the Town in the Gershwin Theatre. Bob Klein has become a major casting agent. Too numerous to mention are alumni of The Round Barn Theatre who are now touring the nation from shows as diverse as Little Women and Peter Pan.