A Bigger, Better Barn
The Theater Barn hopes to get a makeover
Photos courtesy of the Theatre Barn
Before there was a Playhouse, before there was The Prospector, before there was ACT, there was a drafty, little barn with no bathrooms and no heat at the bottom of Halpin Lane. And since 1972, the Ridgefield Theater Barn has endured, relentlessly fostering creativity and courage in aspiring actors of all ages.
“Even within community theater in Fairfield and Westchester counties, our culture is extraordinary,” says executive director Pamme Jones. “We are a true community theater. We want to be a space where people can come and learn and be a part of theater. And we make very conscious decisions around respect, inclusion, and joy.”
Today, the barn has both bathrooms and heat. It also has a thriving children’s theater program, a singer-songwriter series, and adult acting workshops that teach improv, audition, scene study and monologues. It even has shows that are written by penitentiary inmates that use playwriting as part of their therapy.
What it doesn’t have is enough space.
“We have a 70-seat theater, and parking for 14,” says Jones. “We need more space to roll sets on and off stage. Now, we need to shut down the theater to build the sets because we build them in the seating area of the theater.”
The Barn is in the middle of a three-phase renovation. It is hooking up to the town sewer line, paving and expanding the parking lot, and hoping to expand the building itself, adding a black-box theater that will seat 50, and a two-level addition that will house classrooms and event space.
The renovation will also add a dedicated space for the Ridgefield Theater Barn Kids Program, allowing them to add programs for children in grades K-three, mommy-and-me theater, and nursery rhymes. “They make it so welcoming for kids,” says my daughter Evie Briody, 13, who first joined the kids program when she was six. “It’s not stressful. They put kids on stage, but they always put them in a position to be successful. I’ve learned so much about theater over the years, and have made so many friends.”
Jones says the intimate nature of the barn will be preserved. “We don’t do what the other theaters in town do; we know what makes this place special.” In particular, the cabaret-style performances where guests share a table and bring their own food and wine will continue. But with the renovation, the Barn will add a warming kitchen, which would allow guests to pick up food and drinks from local vendors the night of the show.
To fund the renovations, the barn is aiming to raise $500,000. “Ridgefield is lucky to have so much going on in the arts,” says Jones. “And even though we don’t do the same thing as the other venues in town, we do compete for the same entertainment dollar.” It’s an ambitious goal, but if you’ve ever had the chance to experience the magic of this little barn that could, you know that it’s a worthy cause. actofct.org
A Throwback - She's come a long way.