Photo from Battle Creek Enquirer
AUGUSTA, Mich. (BATTLE CREEK ENQUIRER) -- At the Barn Theatre on Thursday, owner Brendan Ragotzy took the stage to make an announcement theater fans have been waiting for.
"We are back," he said. "We're back, we're back."
The Barn has scheduled a full summer season of theater productions for 2011. In 2009, the professional equity theater lost money on its season. It canceled the entire 2010 season.
Fundraising events and shows replaced traditional theater at the Barn in 2010 to pay off the debt from 2009.
With that behind them, Brendan and his wife, Penelope Ragotzy, are bringing "The Great Big Bar Show" to the stage on May 31.
The show, a chance to see the 2011 apprentice company for the first time, will consist of songs from the upcoming slate of musicals.
It will be followed on June 14 by Jeff Daniels' "Escanaba in Love," "Man of La Mancha" June 28, "Chicago" July 12, July 26's "A Streetcar Named Desire," Rodgers and Hammerstein's "Cinderella" August 9 and "Sunset Boulevard" August 23.
Penelope Ragotzy said the season will bring 21 apprentices and from 10 to 15 professional actors to the Barn stage.
The press conference Thursday also detailed the new arrangement between the theater and the Barn Theatre School for Advanced Theatrical Training.
A separate entity from the theater, the school, opened in 1992, provides college-age apprentices with the entire theater experience, from acting and singing to running lights and building sets.
Penelope Ragotzy said the school would provide certain staff for the theater; she said an interpreter for deaf audience members was an example of something the school would pay for.
Mark Hires of CM Contracting Inc. is also the president of the school's Board of Directors. At the press conference, he said the nonprofit organization has raised about $60,000 of a $100,000 annual goal, and fundraising efforts continue.
"Ultimately, what we did, was re-seat the board in September and revitalize the school," he said. "The school's been on a fundraising campaign since December of last year."
Russell Mawby, former head of the W.K. Kellogg Foundation, is an honorary member of the school's board, a distinction shared by singer Kid Rock and actor Jennifer Garner. He stood on stage with Brendan and Penelope Ragotzy and Hires.
"As a citizen, I'm excited by the two things that I see happening right now, that are already under way for 2011," he said of the new plan for the school and the theater.
Despite the positive outlook for the Barn, Brendan Ragotzy said there were no guarantees in an economy that sees people holding on to their entertainment dollars.
"In '09, in all honesty, I think it's the best I've ever done as far as being a producer, as far as managing the money, but yet, we lost money," he said.
According to apprentice Eric Tsuchiyama, a Barn regular for the third year, it's still the best place to continue an education.
The 23-year-old Battle Creek native and recent Central Michigan University graduate said Thursday he's worked at other theaters, but none that have him doing tasks as diverse as both selling tickets and appearing on stage.
"Here, you're literally immersed in that world, creating every single aspect," he said.
Battle Creek Enquirer