The 'Horrors' of outdoor theater

Friday, June 12, 2009 | 12:01 a.m. CDT; updated 10:33 a.m. CDT, Friday, June 12, 2009
Russ Scott plays Seymour, a lovelorn florist with a problem plant, in the Maplewood Barn Community Theater production of Little Shop of Horrors in Columbia on Monday.

COLUMBIA — As the lights came up on the set of Maplewood Barn Community Theatre’s production of “Little Shop of Horrors” on Wednesday night, a faint roll of thunder and a quick flicker of lightning signaled the real “horror” of outdoor theater.

“I think maybe we should start this,” Director Molly Dodge said as she looked over her left shoulder at the threatening sky, hoping to get precious little rehearsal time in before having to move inside the barn. “It’s getting scary.”

If you go

What: "Little Shop of Horrors"

When: June 12 to 28. All performances at 8 p.m.

Where: Maplewood Barn Community Theatre in Nifong Park, 2900 E. Nifong Blvd.

Cost: $10 for adults, $8 for students and seniors, $1 for children.  You can also reserve your tickets online at

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“Little Shop of Horrors" is the story of Seymour Krelbourn's unlikely rise to fame because of his gargantuan Venus fly trap that has an unhealthy taste for human flesh. The show opens at 8 p.m. Friday at the Maplewood Barn Community Theatre in Nifong Park – weather permitting.

“(The cast) has worked themselves immensely,” Dodge said. “And I’m having fun, except for the weather.”

“It’s part of the Maplewood experience,” Byron Scott, actor and 21-year veteran of the theater, said.  Working with “Mother Nature” is what makes outdoor theater unique, he said.

In case the elements don’t cooperate with Dodge, the theater added a rain date performance to the last week of the show’s run, she said.  Usually, the theater moves its productions inside the barn when it rains on a performance night, but she said the not-so-small man-eating plant puppet prevents them from moving the production inside with the audience.

Actor and plant puppeteer Barrett Brooks said even he was taken aback by the puppet’s sheer size. Although Audrey II (the plant) may be a puppet, Brooks said he still has to get into the plant’s “head” as he would any other role.

"Audrey II is a bit of a shyster, like an old used car-salesman; she’s going to get what she wants," he said.

Russ Scott, who plays Seymour, Audrey II's kind but insecure owner, said the first half of the show is about everybody else, but act two is all about the big puppet.

“Sometimes that plant can upstage you, which some actors don’t like,” Scott said. “But being upstaged by a plant? I don’t mind it.”

Seymour’s fame also earns him the love of Audrey, the woman whom he named the plant after. But Seymour’s fame and lucky love comes with a price; he must hide the plant’s growing appetite from the curious public.

“You’ll think (the plant) is alive,” Dodge said, who said she treated Audrey II like another human being. “I want people to get some believability out of this show, maybe this could really happen. I didn’t want it to be just a comic.”

“I think people will be surprised by how (the puppet) can act, work … and eat people,” Brooks said.

Assuming clear skies, Dodge said the unique outdoor space allows theatergoers to bring in food and drinks – something many theaters prohibit – and just relax and watch the show.

“It’s a family experience,” she said. “The barn experience.”


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