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BWW Interviews: Onstage at The Barn: Memories From the First 45 Years with Amanda Lamb

It's hard to believe that it's been 45 years since the entity now known the world over as 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 edifice 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, technicians, directors, music directors, choreographers-you name 'em-who've brought all those shows to life.

During those 45 years, regardless of the title 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 Mike Edwards or Martha Wilkinson.

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, 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 actress Amanda Lamb, who made her debut at The Barn in the 2005, and who handled phone duties for the company for a number of years before heading back to graduate school. Luckily, for local audiences, she's still available to work on some shows from time-to-time and luckily, for us, she found time to offer her backstage/onstage/offstage memories of Nashville's legendary dinner theater.

What was your first experience at Chaffin's Barn? I was in Smoke on The Mountain in was my first professional show. I now have some lifelong friends from this production.  I also spent 2007-2011 working in the box I have been on both sides of the magic stage.  

What's your most vivid memory of working there? There are so many...I will always remember crying in the dressing room with Martha Wilkinson, Kim Nygren and Holly Shepherd on closing night of Chicago.  I loved doing lobby yoga with my BFF Travis [Harkins] during the middle of the day when we got sore from sitting in the box office for too long. Dietz Osborne buying us Marble Slab ice cream on Fridays. My dressing room ladies during Southern Fried Funeral where we laughed more than was possible. Jenny Noel pretend clogging while dressed like Lucille Ball during Late Late Show. Sharing Ricola cough drops with Daron [Bruce].

What's the funniest experience you had at the Barn? Can I just say sitting on the back porch or "lanai," as we like to call it...All kind of nonsense to be said about that.

How about interactions with patrons at the Barn? There are several of our patrons that I love, love, love:  Of course...Mr. Lee-he was just the jauntiest little man that ever lived, and the Barn still misses him. My favorite phone call to answer was "Big Ed." He is a season ticket holder and the minute I answered, he would start to sing "Amanda...Light of my Life."  

What was your favorite foodstuff on the buffet?  I couldn't get enough of Chef Kim's mashed potatoes...they are amazing! I also still love peanut butter pie...especially when it's frozen.

Pictured: Amanda Lamb as "Mama" Morton in Chicago

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From This Author Jeffrey Ellis