Mark Koning’s Local Places and Folklore Blog
From an early age, a creative imagination turned into a passion, and it eventually lead Mark to obtain a Creative Writing diploma. From there he began developing ideas, telling stories, putting them to paper, and sharing with others. Living near the shores of Lake Simcoe, surrounded by the beauty of nature, it is not hard to the right kind of find inspiration.
February 20, 2014
I recall the dreaded night that I was driving home to witness a tragic fate; a portion of the night sky filling with orange smoke. I watched from my car the horror that was destroying a piece of our country’s history!
Canada’s oldest professional summer theatre, the Red Barn, was overcome by a blazing fire in the year 2008. History though, for this remarkable landmark, remains somewhat intact through many memories, (including those of the dedicated volunteers) stories and photographs; but also in the preserved plot of land that sits in Georgina’s small hamlet of Jackson’s Point.
In case you are wondering, this theatre was in fact, an actual barn. I got the pleasure of experiencing first hand some of the building’s culture that began in 1949. I worked at the Red Barn for eight years, literally contributing blood, sweat and tears within the its wooden walls. (I even have the scars to prove it) I worked as part of a one man, sometimes two-man crew, backstage where I learned about production, set design, lighting and stage management.
Parts of the cement foundation continue to stand a few feet tall and are adjacent to the barn’s silo that towers overhead, virtually unaltered by the scorching flames. A fresh coat of white paint accentuates the black bold letters that read “The Red Barn Theatre”, along with the addition of a new bright red roof; looking very much like a bowler hat.
What is left of the concrete basement, a few remnants that almost seem to have risen from the ashes, was at one point in time stalls for various farm animals. The uneven floors where muck, hay and sod used to be got transformed into storage areas for various prop pieces, risers, and flats. The ceiling beams were marked with names of actors, show titles and dates. Two of the back rooms were converted into dressing areas and eventually a green room was built onto the side of the building. The public washrooms even displayed old iron rings where horses used to be.
Throughout the main lobby and the rest of the theatre, a maze of old and heavy wooden crossing beams lined the inner roof. The outside office that was home to the artistic director, sales and administration staff was aptly nicknamed “the coop”, as in chickens.
Starting with Harry Belafonte, who sang from the rafters, (or so legend has it) the stage was graced with many fine actors and some pretty great shows, including musicals and the beloved British farce. (‘No Sex Please….. We’re British’ stands out) Audiences got to sit and observe some amazing, wonderful, and rather hysterical, performances that have been chronicled in time.
The theatre was a lively place, during performances and even afterwards when dismantling a set, the crew ordering in pizza and pop. It seems so clear in my mind as I stand on the land that once held prime theatre entertainment; there for anyone to visit. It is greatly missed, fondly remembered, and cherished forever.