Following a fire, Maplewood Barn Theatre rebuilds, plans commemorative book

Sunday, January 29, 2012 | 5:56 p.m. CST; updated 9:13 a.m. CST, Monday, January 30, 2012

COLUMBIA — To celebrate its 40th season, the Maplewood Barn Theatre is promoting a new book about the barn's history and will announce the production schedule for its upcoming season.

In the 21 months since a fire destroyed the historic Maplewood Barn, the board of directors has been working to rebuild the structure, making it more sturdy and secure. The group has also been researching the barn's history for a new personal and pictorial work with anecdotes from the community. The book is called “Theatre Under the Stars: An Informal, Pictorial History of Maplewood Barn Community Players.”

Michael Scott, president of the board of directors, said he sees the upcoming season as both exciting and emotional. The theatre’s performances this season will take place in front of a barn for the first time since the 2009 season.

The theater group has always relied on the work of volunteers for its board, actors and crew. They each have their own career and family in addition to time spent working at the barn, which makes their progress thus far impressive, Scott said. 

The book's authors are currently interviewing people and collecting stories, some of which date back to very beginning of the barn.

 And, because so much history was lost in the fire, community participation is key. “We’re looking for pictures, old programs or anything like that, especially from the 70s and 80s. We'd love to borrow them,” said Byron Scott of the book project.  Once the photos and programs have been scanned, they can be returned to contributors who would like to keep them.  

Although the theater group has produced a variety of plays and works since 1973, when it began staging its productions at the Maplewood Barn location, “musicals are usually the most well attended," Michael Scott said. He said he expects that this season will have an overall increase in audience attendance.

The first show is "Fiddler on the Roof," which will have nine showings, beginning May 24.

Byron Scott, one of the authors of the book, has been involved with the barn since he first moved to Columbia in the 1980s. He will direct "Wait Until Dark," the fourth production of the upcoming season.

When the group performs at the new barn, the setting — where bat and groundhog sightings were common — will be more secure, Michael Scott said. The barn will have a solid structure and foundation and will preserve the historic look of the old barn. And, it will have enough security to keep intruding animals and people out. 

Construction has come a long way since the project first began last August. According to Scott, the exterior construction is nearly complete and the contractors are currently focusing on the interior. 

The new barn will allow for more modern and useful amenities, such as restrooms, plumbing and a work basin. 

Michael Scott said that the barn’s appearance will still fit in at Nifong Park with the Maplewood Home and the Boone County Historical Society.

With the book in progress, construction almost complete and a full season ahead, “people will be rediscovering the barn,” Byron Scott said.  

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