The Rabbit Run Theater in Madison Township, Ohio is one of only two barn theaters still in operation in the state. It brings in over 7,000 patrons during the summer months and is operated by The Rabbit Run Community Arts Association (RRCAA).
Built in the late 1800s, the Klump family purchased the farm in 1918. Will, Jr. and his sister Rooney presented amateur acts in the horse barn in the 1940s. When Will returned from service in World War II in 1946, family and friends converted the barn into an actual theater by removing the horse stalls and lowering a hay loft which became the stage. Two ice houses were pulled from the nearby shore of Lake Erie and became the box office and green room which are still used today. On July 3rd the old horse barn opened with a 190-seat capacity.
“The Barn” grew as plays were produced in the summer months. Hume Cronyn and Jessica Tandy staged “The Fourposter” in 1951. Jim Backus appeared in “The Man Who Came to Dinner” in 1953. In 1955 a stage house was built on the west side of the barn expanding the seating capacity to 300 (it’s at 275 today).
Rabbit Run experimented with operating an equity theater starting in 1956 and attracted some big name actors like Dustin Hoffman in the ‘60s. Throughout the following years it suffered closures and re-openings until the Klump family was forced to shut it down in 1967. Twelve years later a group of local theater enthusiasts formed the non-profit Friends of Rabbit Run Theater. They leased the property from Alex and Rooney Klump Pirie, whom still owned the property. After Piries’ death in 1999, the family sold farmland for development. To prevent The Barn’s destruction, the Madison Township purchased the property. Then to make financial support more robust, the Friends of Rabbit Run Theater merged with the Western Reserve Fine Arts Association in 2001. Madison has since leased the property to the organization for the playhouse’s productions.
As the patrons arrive they are greeted by a serene setting–a brick-paved courtyard surrounded by magnolia trees, yucca blossoms and…rabbits, descendants of the bunnies attracted to the broccoli grown in the fields of the old days. A custom-designed patio “…beckons guests to bring an alfresco dinner to enjoy before a performance.”
The mission of the RRCCA “…is to provide to people of all ages in northeast Ohio the opportunity to participate in quality and affordable programs, education and presentations in the visual and performing arts.” Cultural programs are constantly being developed, including a children’s performing arts series—“Try Me,” the Madison Jazz Fest, youth art camps and more, attracting 400 students weekly. The organization is celebrating its 25th Annual Juried Art Show, a collaboration with the Madison Public Library.
And Easy-Ware, the Rabbit Run Theatre’s box office POS system, is the most cutting-edge and flexible software for the non-profit performing arts industry. Joined by its online partner, Diamond Ticketing Systems’ software engine PrintTixUSA, the result is a supportive and powerful operation. Last but not least an additional revenue stream directs donated funds to the theater through a program called Diamond Donate.