Only a short drive from Martensville on Highway 12 lies a unique Saskatchewan setting; The Barn Playhouse which offers an experience unlike any other. Featuring four performances each year, they are made up of extremely talented Saskatchewan residents, and those that attend are sure to keep going back. Upon driving up to The Barn Playhouse, an energy can be felt immediately amid the awe-inspiring scenery surrounding the property. The farmyard is welcoming, as are sisters Vickie Dyck, Colleen Dyck and Jane Friesen. Each sister has a role within the business; Jane is the Craft Barn Manager, Colleen is the General Manager and Vickie works as the Artistic Director.
Upon inception in 1991, The Barn Playhouse was located within the three sister’s parent’s barn that had been dormant for approximately 15 years. It was smaller at that time, and could fit 100 people for each show, far less than the 280 that the barn can fit these days. After the first year, her father offered to add another quonset onto the barn. “He said he would let us use it the first year, and if it took off, great, and if not, then he was happy to have another quonset. Needless to say, he never got it back,” laughed Vickie. From the beginning the barn has used the same format. Guests are invited onto the farm yard at 5:30 pm to enjoy the community run food booths, listen to the live music, take a ride through the pasture on a horse drawn wagon and browse through the Craft Barn. The show begins at 7:30 pm. To accommodate those who would rather enjoy an afternoon event, the Dyck family moved their Sunday shows to begin at 2 pm with the yard events beginning at noon.
With every performance, a small crew comes together to put in countless hours ensuring that every detail is perfectly in place and cast members work tirelessly to transform into their characters prior to opening night. This year’s first performance is “I Remember Mama”, a play consisting of 18 cast members that is set in 1910 San Francisco. With a plot that largely revolves around family, it provides something that everyone can relate to. Offering a mix of humor, love, compassion and sentiment, “I Remember Mama” tells the story of a loving Norwegian immigrant family that live on Steiner Street. The story is told by Katrin, who is one of three daughters and shares how this working-class family works together in an attempt to achieve the American dream. “This show is based on a true book, based on a young woman in 1910 who wanted to be a writer. She decided to write about her own experiences and wrote about her family. It is written really well and has an amazing array of characters, even the crazy family members that everyone has. I think everyone will be able to relate to it, even though it is based in 1910, it makes no difference,” Vickie explained. In addition to being able to relate to the family aspect, many of us can also relate to having family members that immigrated to North America from other countries to provide the lives that we are all able to have today. “It’s a shared history for most of us,” added Vickie.
One of Vickie’s favorite parts of each performance is the planning and research that goes into each one to ensure it’s as accurate as possible. In “I Remember Mama”, a portion of the storyline revolves around a solje, which is a Norwegian brooch made of silver. “We felt that it must have been a very precious thing so we did research and discovered that it was used as an engagement ring back in the 1700’s and 1800’s that were made by the men proposing.”
Another favorite about working in community theatre for Vickie is the people that have been part of the experience over the years. Having been a theatre teacher, Vickie knew that she wanted to be involved in community theatre and has never looked back. Between the cast and audience members, each person that has been a part of The Barn Playhouse has created a passion in Vickie that is abundantly apparent when listening to her talk. “A friend of mine once said success depends on what coin you want to be paid in. I have been paid a thousand fold by the people that I have met and been able to work with throughout the years. I have watched them grow and make lifelong friendships. We try to make this a really positive experience for both cast and the audience. That’s the coin we are paid in – people and experiences and watching wonderful things happen here,” Vickie stated.
Each story is chosen by Vickie, who does a large amount of reading throughout the off months to find the perfect options for each season. At The Barn Playhouse, they use storylines that portray family and/or rural life. Each performance is chosen to work together and into the tradition that The Barn Playhouse has worked on for the past 28 years. “I choose shows that fit together in some way. If one is a large cast, the second one not so large. Both summer shows this year are very much about how family’s use humor to navigate through the bumpy parts in life.”
“I Remember Mama” will be playing from June 20-24 and June 27-July 1. Other upcoming performances include “Having Hope at Home”, which is a family comedy taking place from August 22-26 and August 29-September 2. This October will feature “Prairie Trio”, an evening of sight, sound & taste, taking place October 10-14. The Christmas feature for 2018 will be “Miracle on 34th Street” presented by Lux Radio Theatre on November 28-December 2, December 5-9 and December 12-16.
Leading up to each show, open auditions are held and those trying out need not have experience within community theatre, just a willingness to learn, says Vickie. “As my dad used to say, ‘in a team of horses, you put one experienced one beside one new one’, so we try to balance things out that way. We always welcome new faces and they learn from the people that have more experience.”
For more information on The Barn Playhouse, visit barnplayhouse.com or call (306) 239-4600.
Photo inset: The staff of The Barn Playhouse – Back row left to right: Jane Friesen, Nicole Zomer, Lorraine Eichhorn, Colleen Dyck – Front row: Vickie Dyck