BWW Interviews: Onstage at The Barn: Memories From the First 45 Years with Eric Tichenor
Believe it or not, it's been 45 years Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre opened its doors to the Nashville and regional theater-going audience. Since 1967-when A.W. and Puny Chaffin founded "The Barn"-thousands of people have made the trek to the big red barn in West Nashville, witnessing some of the best shows to be produced in Music City, and in the process getting to know all the actors, artists and technicians who've brought all a myriad of shows to life.
Throughout those 45 years, regardless of the title or names on the marquee, The Barn has offered every one of its audiences exciting professional theatre and a mouth-watering buffet fairly groaning from the weight of the assembled Southern delicacies. In fact, when you talk to people about their memories of The Barn, they're just as likely to mention peanut butter pie or corn pudding as they are to recall the onstage antics and offstage friendships of such performers as Ken Dale Thompson or Rona Carter.
Since 1967, Chaffin's Barn has provided employment to some of the best actors to be found on stages anywhere, launching careers for actors who have gained critical and audience acclaim all over the country. And during that time span, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre has been hailed as one of the Top 25 tourist attractions in Nashville, "Best Buffet" and "Best Place to See a Play" in The Tennessean's annual Toast of Music City contest and in Nashville Scene's "Best of" as one of the top three "Best Places to See a Play." In addition, Chaffin's Barn was the recipient of The First Night Lifetime Achievement Award and its shows, directors, choreographers and actors have taken home multiple First Night honors over the years.
In recognition of The Barn's 45 years of bringing the magic of live theater to the stage, we continue our special series of Onstage at The Barn: Memories from The First 45 Years, with actor extraordinaire Eric Tichenor, who made his debut at the Barn in the hit 1990 musical comedy A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum, and who has provided Nashville theater audiences a whole slew of theater memories since…
What was your first experience at Chaffin's Barn? My first experience was playing a chorus member in A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum in 1990. The one and only Pam Atha and I had done Hello, Dolly! together in Birmingham, and she called me to fill in the last role. When I got there, I came to know the budget plan better and realized I was the entire male chorus, often (comically) changing costumes right on stage to play another member of ancient Rome. It was my first show and Michael Edwards last show...I am eternally grateful to have worked with the Master.
What's your most vivid memory of working there? So many of my memories at The Barn are ones others have told me about...t hose who knew me years ago will understand that inside reference. After 20 years of being there , there are honestly too many to count. I will say that playing the dueling twins in the show Corpse, directed by John Chaffin, was in the top 5. I must also include The Fantasticks with the Julie Kutosh at the helm. And no list would be complete without a Neil Simon reference....Brian Russell and I in Broadway Bound was a dream come true.
What's the funniest experience you had at the Barn? I may never in all my life have laughed as hard as during the entire run of John Chaffin's Bill of Wrongs...between Adam , Joseph, Lydia, Brandy, and Richard I don't think a piece of scenery was safe. Now wait a minute...I must say that while directing Rumors I then had to fill in various roles for sick cast members including the role of Claire on closing night. My regret is that Bobby Wyckoff would not kiss his wife, Claire, when they made up at the end of the play. I had blotted my lip gloss and everything.
How about interactions with patrons at the Barn? When I played Micky in the Backstage Show of Greetings, the patrons would have a story about a character in their life just like him. I cried at the end of the evening each night with the touching things they would say to me.
What was your favorite foodstuff on the buffet? Sad to say, it was the bread pudding. But I have to say also that I had to stop eating it eating it in 1998 when I stopped drinking and Kim Nygren noticed I was overly chatty at the cast table, tasted my bread pudding and all the booze in it that night and suggested I not eat any more of it...it was hysterical...thank you, Kim.