RIP Red Barn

The Ontario Theatre Community is devastated today after hearing of the fire at the Red Barn Theatre in Jackson’s Point which reduced the structure to the ground. I would like to offer my condolences to Jordan Merkur, the current Artistic Director, and the entire Red Barn family, including those artists who grew up working at the theatre or attending the theatre as patrons. The Red Barn was an important historic landmark in Canadian theatre history, and I sincerely hope that Merkur as his associates will be able to preserve with their 60th season and their future goals and that the theatre will be rebuilt.
At the same time, I am reminded of a great book I read recently called Fallen Empires: Lost Theatres of Edmonton 1881-1914 by John Orrell. The reality is that all the great theatres of history: including the original Globe, have burned down. In Orrell’s book alone, there are at least a dozen tragic- yet magnificent fire stories, and fires are as integral a part of world theatre history as stagecraft and technical advancements. Great, beautiful theatres have been built only because others burned down. Like Phoenixes, new hope is reborn out of the ashes. I’d like to leave you with this quote from Orrell’s book, as I find great solace amid the sadness in it.
“All of the buildings described in this book have been lost, with the exception of Ross Hall and Princess Theatre in Strathcona, designated historical sites. The Pantages, an ex-designated site, was destroyed even so, but may one day be reconstructed as a museum piece at Fort Edmonton historical park. While the choicer bits of Priteca’s plaster lie embalmed in plastic bags awaiting the questionable resurrection it is worth reflecting on the evident fact that no theatre is immortal; the drama lives on, but theatres die and are surely meant to. The important thing is to see that they are constantly replaced” (Orrell, 162).

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