Playmakers' History

THE BARN 2005-6


by Frank Levy & Bonnie Bess Wood

THE BARN- a selected portrayal of great moments in the history of Playmakers, performed by the original actors who played in them upon the reopening of the theater after recovery from Hurricane Katrina, January, 2006. Where scenes from other shows are indicated there are printed inserts from those scripts to be inserted into this document. Thus, only the actors involved in each of those scenes needed each of those particular scripts. Scenes performed are indicated in bold script.  It serves as a unique overview of some of the theatre’s long history. Presented without stage references.

1. INTRODUCTION by STAGE MGR.

This is Playmakers. This building and a couple of earlier manifestations of this building, all called THE BARN, IS Playmakers Theater. Playmakers theater has been an integral part of this community since an enterprising group of 19 people with names like Moskovitz, Malone, Federoff, Chalaron, Landon, Magruder, Ellis, Burns, Barranger, Koepp, Crumb,Friedrichs, and Clanton got together in 1955 and said, “Hey, let’s put on a show!”

That first show was called TOO MANY HUSBANDS and it was performed at a local school. Some original members, reaching  back fifty years can still be seen at the theater. Why here’s Elizabeth Malone, a founding member, sitting right here! Hello, Elizabeth! Well, anyway, it turned out that A SHOW grew into five decades of over 250 shows, with nearly 3,000 performances. And something magical happened, as is not uncommon in theater. The founders of Playmakers kept on and on, others joined in, then the children of that generation joined in and the next, and the next! Alvin Bertel gave an old barn right there on this spot in 1959 which has been the parent and design model for all the BARNS that have followed. Why? How has this group managed to continue on and on without losing a beat? Founding member and first president Steve Ellis said it had to be love.

There was a fire in 1976 which destroyed THE BARN but ended up giving birth to the next BARN, thanks to the wonderful efforts of so many, Arthur Middleton, Nikki Barranger and the monks of St. Joseph Abbey who loaned their stage for two years.
Through it all, all these 50 consecutive years, Playmakers has come to be embodied by this building, this BARN. Fires, floods, hurricanes…the show has always gone on. This then, is the story of a building. THE PLAYMAKERS BARN. This is the story of great moments in great shows from the past, great moments in shows by current actors, great moments from children’s theater, and just plain great… moments in real life……you know like Ronnie Pogue, Playmakers most prolific actor, who has appeared in 48 different productions, but in 1956 Ronnie became forever notorious for his endless death scene in STALAG 17 when as a Nazi informant, he was thrown out of his tent by the other POW’s …

And who can forget early performances of NO TIME FOR SERGEANTS, with guileless Will Stockdale trying to get processed into the army so he can win a wristwatch?

THE BARN has sure made use of all that local talent can provide, with actors bringing to the stage personal talents that ended up being worked into shows, these included such diverse skills as whistling, acrobatic dance and even playing the violin.

Who can forget THE BARN’S timeless portrayal of King Henry the second, a man betrayed by his wife and all three of his sons. in THE LION IN WINTER  ( Lion in Winter Russell Krogsgard)  Thinking back, so many productions here as well as awards ceremonies featured the amazing storytelling and tap dancing skills of Ray Perer .

And then there was Arthur Middleton’s production of FOLLIES where a wonderful rendition of BROADWAY BABY by Celeste Gunn was rewarded with a huge ovation only to have Celeste walk offstage and fall lifeless into the arms of Arthur’s wife Donie. Celeste was featured in Variety in New York for having had a perfect actor’s passing but back at the theater the show went on, with Donna Heier taking her place and singing her song every night thereafter in Celeste’s honor….
Broadway Baby .

There has been children’s theater too, with wonderful summer shows teeming with kids and bringing new families into the ONE FAMILY OF THE BARN perhaps most notable among these was a production of CHRISTMAS ON THE BAYOU, the true story of one of ST TAMMANY’S great true heroes Father Adrienne Rouquette… Christmas on the Bayou 2 THE BARN 2005-6 by Frank Levy & Bonnie Bess Wood Children’s theater performances are a reminder that this old BARN has been a place where so many families have begun, with couples who eventually married meeting here for the first time, people such as John and Debbie Carambat, Randy and Lynn Perkins (both of them past presidents of Playmakers too), and who could forget the tender first meeting of David and Mimi Knight.

What plays have we done the most? Well one has been HARVEY with lots of attention paid to a rabbit who wasn’t there and a man named Elwood P.Dowd, but man there were some other kooky characters in that show too, especially Elwood’s Sister and niece

Playmakers awards were often highlighted by board members literally getting into the act, with rollicking portrayals of timeless melodramas which were great fun and of course, as always, all’s well that ends well, with good triumphing over evil…

In every one of the BARN’s nearly 3,000 performances over the past 50 years, not a one of them, NOT A ONE, could have gotten off the ground without the efforts backstage of the set and props and costume crews. People like Dot Magruder, Steve Ellis, Elizabeth Malone, Charley Sloan, Jacques Gibert, Elmer Darcy, Russell Krogsgard, and many more who did all the work so that others could tread these boards.

As generation has followed generation onto this stage, augmented by new arrivals from other theater groups as they move into the area, new shows and new scenes blossom every year on this venerable stage……from teenagers doing their first-ever monologs to adult actors tearing into scenes that would have made Cary Grant or Rosalind Russell proud….

THE BARN 2005-6 by Frank Levy & Bonnie Bess Wood There is no single moment in the history of this theater that has crackled with energy more memorably that Danny Hanneman’s star turn as Stanley Kowalski in A STREETCAR NAMED DESIRE, when he …….cleared the table

Patricia Stout After 40 years of acclaimed Vaudeville collaboration, followed by 10 years of bitter separation, Al Lewis and Willie Clark have reluctantly agreed to reprise their famous “Doctor’s Sketch” for a Television Documentary. Let’s see how the Rehearsal is going for THE SUNSHINE BOYS.

We were doing a show some years back called HERE LIES JEREMY TROY when Les Landon, the third, for reasons we will never know, brought a high velocity target pistol to rehearsal. The director asked him, “Les, what are you doing with a gun? We don’t have a gun in this show. ” Les Landon and the Gun That shot put a hole in the ceiling right about…there! During shows when it rained that leak dripped water on whoever was sitting in this seat…for the next ten years until we got the roof replaced.

THE SOUND OF MUSIC was a landmark achievement for the old BARN and one moment that really soared happened when the mother superior, played by Judy Krogsgard offered Maria the advice she needed in the form of a song. Nominated by the board of directors for most memorable scene in the BARN’S history, was a tour de force portrayal of a minister, delivering a eulogy in GREATER TUNA the minister was Jerry King, following in the footsteps of his father, Jerry King Senior.

Sometimes it’s nearly impossible to tell by looking at the performance whether it’s from children’s theater or not, because the quality of acting is so stunning…

Nikki Barranger has been an integral element in this theater’s success since day one. Directing, starring, fund raising…..doing it all. He has wowed audiences with a range of abilities ranging from poetry recitals in SPOON RIVER ANTHOLOGY to singing with the pirates in PIRATES OF PENZANCE .

Curtain goes down on Pirates of Penzance