News & Feature Articles Written About People & Places in Lake County, Ohio            

Rabbit Run showcases phenomenal community theater in an 1800's barn
Published: Friday, June 24, 2011, 5:00 AM
By Linda Chojnacki The Plain Dealer

If you enjoy theater and are looking for a unique evening out, then you’ll want to visit Rabbit Run Theater in Madison. It’s a one-of-a-kind barn theater that is producing unbelievable productions.
What is Rabbit Run Theater all about?
Karen Ziegler, publicist and manager of group sales: Rabbit Run Theater started in the late 1940s by a brother-sister team, Will and Rooney Klump. The barn, which was built in the 1800s, was owned by the family and it was a working barn. Will and Rooney both had a love for theater. After Will got back from World War II, they converted the barn into a theater. It was summer stock, and during the first year of production all of the actors were World War II veterans. The theater caught on very quickly, and they were selling out the house. Their mother had a home nearby and she would house and feed the actors.
How did the theater get its name?
Karen: When it was a working farm, one of the main crops was broccoli, which attracted a lot of rabbits. In fact, there were so many rabbits that they beat down little trails or runs. When the Klumps decided to turn the barn into a theater, they thought, “Rabbit Run, that’s a catchy name.” People really remember the name, and we still get a lot of rabbits.
You said that you’ve had famous people perform here?
Karen: Dustin Hoffman spent the summer of 1962 here, and Charles Grodin, Sandy Dennis, Jessica Tandy, and Kim Kernan also performed here. There’s an interesting story about Jim Backus. He’s from the Cleveland area and had family here at the time. In the late 1950s, he fell and broke his leg. He really couldn’t work in LA, so he decided to come to Cleveland to visit his family. His agent found out about Rabbit Run and got both Jim and his wife Henny into a show called “The Man Who Came to Dinner.” It was perfect because the lead male in the show was actually a man with a broken leg.
What is your focus today?
Brint Learned, executive director, Rabbit Run Community Arts Association and Rabbit Run Theater: About 10 years ago, the Arts Association and Rabbit Run Theater merged and became Rabbit Run Community Arts Association. Year-round, we offer classes in dance, vocal and instrumental music, the visual arts, and drama.
From June to August, we offer community theater. We do five shows in three months.
What makes Rabbit Run Theater unique?
Brint: The charm is the fact that the theater truly is a barn. There really is no other experience like it. When you’re out here on a summer night watching a show, the barn doors are open, there are twinkle lights in the trees, and you can feel the breezes coming off of the lake. It’s an intimate setting with 275 seats and is really a local treasure.
What is the current season?
Karen: Right now, “Doubt A Parable” is running through June 25. Every year we do a young adult program, which will be “Urinetown” this year. It runs July 1 to 9. That will be followed by “Chicago”, July 15 to 31, and “Lend Me a Tenor,” August 12 to 28.
You said that you are doing something different next year?
Brint: We constantly look for new challenges. So we are doing an entire season built around the works of Charles Dickens. We’re opening the season with a one-man piece, “Dickens of a Summer.” That will be followed by “Oliver” and “The Life and Adventures of Nicholas Nickleby,” which is an eight-hour play that will be performed over two nights. You can see it on a Friday and Saturday night, two Fridays in a row, or straight through on a Sunday afternoon and evening. The final show will be “The Mystery of Edwin Drood,” which is an interesting production. When Dickens was writing it, he passed away. So every night, the audience votes on the ending. There’s a lot of audience participation.
You said that you have a picnic area?
Brint: We have picnic tables and tables with chairs. People can bring a bottle of wine and a picnic basket and enjoy the beautiful grounds prior to the show. There are also great restaurants in Madison Village, which is a short drive away.
How much are tickets?
Karen: Tickets are $19 for adults and $17 for those 60+ and students. There are also group and season packages.
www.rabbitrunonline.org
(440) 428-7092
Route 2 to Route 20 to McMackin Road in Madison.