Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre to Undergo 'Major Renovations' in 2018
With a new year quickly approaching, staff members at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre are already hard at work on the first production of 2018 and recently announced plans to "give the old girl an update" following a momentous first year of Norma Luther's ownership of the venerable theater. On opening night of the holiday season musical A Wonderful Life, Luther announced that the company - currently In its 51st year of bringing professional theater to Nashville - will temporarily close its doors to undergo significant renovations to ensure its history continues for at least another half-century.
"As our 52nd season of 2018 dawns, we are pleased to announce Disney's Freaky Friday opening January 17," Luther explains. "After that show The Barn will close from February 23 until August 1 for much-needed major renovations."
Among those planned renovations are a new roof, kitchen, plumbing, electrical and "yes, hopefully the stage [will] once again raise and lower (depending on 'code' approval)," Luther says.
Luther's plans for renovation comes after exhaustive work to determine what best serves Barn patrons and audiences, the artistic/building/kitchen staffs and the company itself. She took over ownership of the theater in January 2017 from Janie and John Chaffin, whose family launched the theatrical enterprise in 1966 under patriarch A.W. Chaffin.
"I looked at a lot of property for a potential move," she says, but ultimately she made the decision to keep the iconic venue right where it began in 1966, much to the delight of her "team" and to audiences who have remained loyal to the venue since its inception.
"I feel great about it," says Martha Wilkinson, the artistic director of Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre. "Norma and I have had lots of conversations about her plans and when she talked to me about this particular plan - to close the doors for six months to do these renovations - I was absolutely thrilled about it. It's the best plan possible!"
Wilkinson says the decision to "re-structure" the existing facility ensures The Barn will continue to thrive, particularly after a wildly successful 2017 season during which audiences and patronage grew with each successive mounting of a new production.
"The plan to re-structure the already standing Barn is just great and it's a tribute to everything and everyone who's been there for the past 51 years," Wilkinson contends. "I think it was smart of Norma to focus on building a really awesome following in 2017 to allow us to do this."
Wilkinson says that patron support is essential to the theater's continued success: "People are really excited about the new energy at The Barn."
Joy Tilley Perryman, a veteran of multiple season at Chaffin's Barn who is continues as an integral part of the company's artistic staff, echoed Wilkinson's sentiments.
"Norma has been wonderful to work with this year and her vision for the future is exciting," she says. "We can't wait to see what the future holds."
The Barn is slated to re-open in August with a revival of the acclaimed 2017 staging of Sister Act, followed by Disney's Newsies and Elf the Musical. Sister Act is set for an August 2-25 run, with Newsies running September 20-October 27, with Elf playing November 15-December 29. Luther is confident the renovations will be complete in time for the abbreviated 2018 season to run as scheduled.
Luther also suggested that Barn staff is considering the production of off-site shows in an effort to keep loyal audience members involved and engaged during the months the theater is dark: "While renovations are ongoing, the theater team may do offsite plays only," she says. "We will be announcing any possible offsite shows via email and Facebook."
In light of the abbreviated season, The Barn is not offering Season or Sampler packages in 2018, instead offering 2017 season/sampler ticketholders special pricing for the 2018 shows.
"2017 has been a banner year at Chaffin's, blending tradition while adding many new exciting traditions and benefits," Luther says. "As a team, Chaffin's is so proud of our season and extremely grateful to our longtime season and sampler ticker holders for their ongoing support."
"The heart and success of the Barn pure and simple has always been the theater team. Led by artistic director Martha Wilkinson, and supported by Daniel DeVault, Bradley Moore, Joy Tilley Perryman, Everett Tarlton and Jamie Scott, they created memorable musicals like Sister Act, Mamma Mia and Smoke on the Mountain - to, as Broadway World reported, return The Barn to its glory days. With performances by 'Barn favorites" like Brett Cantrell, Jenny Norris, Layne Sasser, Charlie Winton, Curtis LeMoine and others, and by adding many newcomers - Gerold Oliver, Stewart Romeo, Gracie McGraw, just to name a few - every show was performed with excellence and before record-setting sold-out audiences."
Luther went on to praise the efforts of operations manager Donnie Hall, members of the theater's kitchen, bar and wait staffs - along with the box office/group sales and administrative team, whom she credited with "an amazing job of implementing a computerized system for online ticketing and managing seating for sold-out productions on a regular basis - for ensuring that patrons, both returning and new, would remain engaged in the dinner theater during a time of volatility and change in the Nashville business and arts landscape.
For further information about Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre or for tickets to this season's trio of holiday shows - A Wonderful Life, A Tuna Christmas and 'Twas the Night Before Christmas - go to www.chaffinsbarntheatre.com or call (615) 646-9977.