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S T A G E L I F E

Reborn in a Barn

Once the cream of Port City theater experiences, Red Barn Studio Theatre returns to life

BY GWENYFAR ROHLER

If the 50th anniversary is “Gold” and the

60th is “Diamond,” based on Thalian Association’s experience, apparently the 225th is “Barn.” The Red Barn Studio Theatre, to be precise. Slumbering quietly on the corner of South Third and Marstellar streets, the Red Barn has been dark and empty since Linda Lavin and Steve Bakunas moved out of the area at the beginning of the year. This is not so much a story of a theater group in search of a home as it is a story about a theater in search of a family to bring it back to life. The Red Barn was created by Tony Award-winning actress Linda Lavin and her husband, the talented designer Steve Bakunas, as the final stage in their ambitious revitalization project on Marstellar Street that included

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Salt • November 2013

renovating five houses on the block and donating a park to the neighborhood. From 2007 to 2012, the intimate venue showcased the cream of Port City talent. But since mid-October of 2012 it has sat vacant. No actors rehearsing, no carpenters backstage building sets, and no audience antsy in their seats with anticipation. It’s the theater equivalent of a forgotten doll, languishing for a child’s withdrawn love. Ten blocks away, in the Community Arts Center on the corner of Second and Orange streets, Thalian Association was celebrating its 225th anniversary. Founded in 1788, when the American Revolution was still a real memory in people’s minds, Thalian Association has been through a few incarnations on the road to becoming North Carolina’s official community theater. “We’ve had periods when we went dark. The Civil War, during Reconstruction, and the early 1990s,” concedes Susan Habas, managing director of Thalian Association. “But if you look through Thalian’s records, the same family names come up over and over again, showing continuity for Thalians.” Habas points to one of our most prominent family names, which figures heavily into the story. Many people in town confuse Thalian Hall and Thalian Association. They share the same name, but have not been synonymous for quite a while. The Art & Soul of Wilmington

PHOTOGRAPH BY MARK STEELMAN

Lance Howell, the technical director for the Thalian Association

November 2013 Salt  

The Art & Soul of Wilmington

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