Supporters of the commercial theatre near Kalamazoo were informed in recent days that due to lack of funds and the poor economy, a summer season will not be presented this year, but there is hope that the company can rebound in summer 2011.
"Having to announce this breaks our hearts," producer Brendan Ragotzy, son of the late founders, wrote in a letter. "For the last 64 seasons, our goal has been to offer you the highest quality Equity professional theatre possible. But today's especially challenging economy, combined with a less-than-financially-successful 2009 season, means that we are finding it impossible to produce a 2010 season.
"Our goal is to use this time to regroup, reorganize — and perhaps most importantly — raise funds, and come back in 2011, stronger than ever."
In order to come back in 2011, the theatre is seeking donations to its not-for-profit arm, The Barn Theatre School, which underwrites the costs associated with hiring the young actors who perform each season at the theatre and in the Rehearsal Shed lounge. The company claims that "if donations exceed previous years, we will be able to continue to do what we do best, and have done for more than six decades: produce outstanding professional theatre that has become a regional summer tradition…while helping to train the next generation of theatre professionals."
The fundraising for the theatre school/apprentice program would ostensibly be separate from other capital fundraising to support design elements, staffing and licensing costs associated with running a summer season. A summer benefit is planned to raise funds for the theatre school. For more information, visit barntheatre.com.
The Barn Theatre was founded as the Village Players in 1946 by Betty and Jack Ragotzy, who staged four plays in a church hall in Richland, MI. They presented another two seasons in Richland before taking over a dairy barn in Augusta in summer 1949. Those first three seasons are still counted as Barn Theatre history.