Believe it or not, it's been 45 years Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre opened its doors to the Nashville and regional theater-going audience. Since 1967-when A.W. and Puny Chaffin founded "The Barn"-thousands of people have made the trek to the big red barn in West Nashville, witnessing some of the best shows to be produced in Music City, and in the process getting to know all the actors, artists and technicians who've brought all a myriad of shows to life.
Throughout those 45 years, regardless of the title or names on the marquee, The Barn has offered every one of its audiences exciting professional theatre and a mouth-watering buffet fairly groaning from the weight of the assembled Southern delicacies. In fact, when you talk to people about their memories of The Barn, they're just as likely to mention peanut butter pie or corn pudding as they are to recall the onstage antics and offstage friendships of such performers as Alesha Brevard or Derek Whittaker.
Since 1967, Chaffin's Barn has provided employment to some of the best actors to be found on stages anywhere, launching careers for actors who have gained critical and audience acclaim all over the country. And during that time span, Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre has been hailed as one of the Top 25 tourist attractions in Nashville, "Best Buffet" and "Best Place to See a Play" in The Tennessean's annual Toast of Music City contest and in Nashville Scene's "Best of" as one of the top three "Best Places to See a Play." In addition, Chaffin's Barn was the recipient of The First Night Lifetime Achievement Award and its shows, directors, choreographers and actors have taken home multiple First Night honors over the years.
In recognition of The Barn's 45 years of bringing the magic of live theater to the stage, we continue our special series of Onstage at The Barn: Memories from The First 45 Years, with actress Andrea Hodgin Osborne, who made her debut at The Barn in 1994 in Smoke on the Mountain, quickly establishing herself as a favorite of Barn audiences and the Nashville theater community. Among my most vivid memories of Andrea was her performance-along with Tim Fudge and Darren Stuart-of "Our Time" from Stephen Sondheim's Merrily WE Roll Along, which was the closing number for the 1995 First Night Awards at Nashville Children's Theatre (and she toiled, for a while, as my personal assistant).
"My time in Nashville was special, one for which I'm very thankful," she remembers. "Although I no longer work in the theater world, I'm so thankful to have those two years I worked professionally onstage, and the million other jobs I worked at the same time. One of my faves was working for you at your house! Knowing all of you, working with all of you, is a rich part of my life and makes me who I am today."
"I haven't acted onstage since I left the Barn, but have done a lot musically," she says.Today, Andrea (a native of Greensboro, North Carolina) lives in Raleigh with her husband of almost 13 years, Jay Osborne and their seven-year-old daughter, who Andrea claims "is as dramatic as her mother ever was." In addition, she has a stepdaughter who is a freshman at East Carolina University and she works part-time for Capitol Broadcasting Company, writing for their corporate and employee websites.
"I moved to Nashville from Greensboro after completing grad school at Western Carolina University. I let Nashville after the summer of 1996: my grandfather had just died and my uncle was dying, so I wanted to be back near family," she explains.
Andrea still has vivid memories herself of her time in Nashville and the family and friends she came to know during her time at Chaffin's Barn Dinner Theatre…
What was your first experience at Chaffin's Barn? I moved to Nashville without knowing a soul in the summer of 1994. Wasn't quite sure what I wanted to do, but I saw an ad in the newspaper for auditions for a musical called Smoke on the Mountain at Chaffin's Barn. I signed up, auditioned and was privileged to play the role of 16-year-old Denise. Robert Keifer was my magnificent first director and his lovely bride Carol played my Mom. I loved the show and the Chaffin's vets in the play (Sam Whited, Bobby Wyckoff and Richard Daniel) and the newcomers like me. What a great memory. And that set me on a two-year theatre career that I'll never forget during my brief stay in Nashville.