The Show Goes On: Historic N.L. Barn Playhouse Returns With 'Summer Under The Stars'
The pandemic has left its mark on artists and art organizations throughout New Hampshire. And all this week, we're talking with artists about how difficult the year has been and how it's impacted them and their organizations in a series we're calling The Show Goes On.
For the New London Barn Playhouse, COVID-19 meant curtains for all performances last year. This year, the 89th season will be the second in a row with no performances inside the 200-year-old barn. But the show will go on in a new venue.
Kevin Coughlin is the Executive Artistic Director of the Barn Playhouse. He joined All Things Considered host Peter Biello to talk about their plans and to look back at this devastating year.
Peter Biello: Thank you very much for speaking with me.
Keith Coughlin: Peter, thanks so much for having me. I'm grateful for the opportunity.
Biello: Tell us about the plan for this year. What's the plan?
Coughlin: We've been planning for for a number of months now, what we might be able to do in this summer. And we're excited to say that we are going to produce five productions in an outdoor open air tent on the Colby-Sawyer College campus to provide quality entertainment that our patrons have known and loved for the Barn Playhouse in a safe way, for both our patrons and our staff.
Biello: Wow. OK, so five performances this year. There were none last year in the Barn. Can you tell me a little bit about the history of the New London Barn Playhouse and what it meant to not have any performances there last year?
Coughlin: Last summer was incredibly challenging. The Barn represents a real awakening for us in our community, for the arts in the summer. People in our community say they know that it's summer in New London when the Barn Playhouse opens. And so we take a lot of pride in what we're able to do and share in those summer months for our community. And it was an incredibly difficult thing to, of course, make that decision to cancel those in-person events. But we're going to produce nearly 60 performances, five different productions this summer in the open air tent and what we believe is going to be a really remarkable way to continue to share with our community once again.
Biello: Can you give an example of a kind of performance that you chose because it lends itself well to being performed outside under a tent?
Coughlin: We have specifically chosen the productions that we're going to represent this summer, we're going to perform the summer, because they celebrate many artists and composers, performances that people have loved and enjoyed in the Barn Playhouse itself. A production called A Grand Night for Singing that celebrates the library of all of the music of Rodgers and Hammerstein. A wonderful revue that's going to show much of the music that we have performed in the Barn. And I think it's... it's a way to welcome people back. We take a lot of pride, just as many of the arts organizations that produce within the state of New Hampshire do, and what we can provide for our audiences. And we think that this summer we've got some exciting things to once again gather in a safe way and celebrate music and song and dance once again.
Biello: And has the past year made you think differently at all about the work you've been doing?
Coughlin: You know, when I talk to artists, especially, we work with some wonderful young artists, artists that are just about on the verge of starting their careers in theater and the arts, we've always appreciated what it is that we get to do and what we get to share with our communities. We embrace and are incredibly thankful for the support we feel from our communities. We talked to a young woman the other day who said, 'I didn't think I could appreciate what I get to do more, but in this last year, I for sure do.' When we can get back to creating and sharing, there's great, great appreciation. We've always appreciated or I should say many artists appreciate what we get to do. But I think that having it taken away for a full year, not only we as artists, but I think our patrons are going to continue to to value that even in a new way in a renaissance, I believe, for the arts.
Biello: Well, Keith Coughlin, thank you very much for speaking with me and telling us about the plans. We really appreciate it.
Coughlin: Peter, I appreciate your time and allowing me to speak. We look forward to welcoming folks, albeit in a new setting back to New London for the Barn Playhouse. But I implore all of your listeners to support all of those venues in the art sector that are so important to our state, as we all try to navigate working forward and we all look forward to creating for our communities once again.
Biello: Keith Coughlin is executive artistic director at the New London Barn Playhouse. And we'll put a link to their website on our website so you can learn more about this summer's outdoor performances. That's NHPR.org, which is also where you can find all the stories in our series, The Show Goes On.