27vertigo barn bar /mb/ab

‘Barn Bar’ serves another round

By Debi Neville

Imagining there would be a second season of "Barn Bar" seemed as far-fetched to Bob Sanborn as the success of the first six episodes.

Creator of the improv comedy series streamed on YouTube, Sanborn, who by day is a professor at Rochester Community and Technical College, chuckles when recalling the inspiration for what became Barn Bar.


"The introduction on YouTube is the truth," he said. "What if, a man reasoned at 3 in the morning, a bunch of friends showed up at a bar (and) stage I built in my barn and improvised theatrical material based on the struggle to make sense of life in southeast Minnesota?"

What can only be described as a dream come true, Sanborn received overwhelming support. The bar/stage was built in his barn and the actors came. He describes the project, a part of Vertigo Theatre Factory, as "’Cheers’ meets ‘A Prairie Home Companion’ with a touch of ‘Monty Python’ and ‘Twin Peaks.’"

Season one’s six episodes have created quite a following. While at the farmer’s market recently, someone walked by Sanborn, stopped, and said, "It’s Nervous Bob (the character Sanborn plays in these episodes)." The passer-by had gone to a "Barn Bar" party, where they sat around and watched the episodes over and over. Sanborn was thrilled the project is creating a fan base.

"Barn Bar" consists of a wide variety of people who develop characters and show up at tapings held every two weeks. A story line is explained each night. Whoever is there improvises dialogue and action becomes the story.

"It’s unique. A flexible commitment, no lines to learn and I enjoy the flow of creative juices," said Becca Stiles-Nogosek, a Rochester School District employee and seasoned actress. " I like playing off other actors. The fact that people think we are funny is an added bonus."

Erik Devik, a Rochester chef, is one of the original performers.

"We have loads of ideas for season two," Devik said. "The best thing about filming is the fun we have while doing it."

Tom Kerr, an RCTC professor, said, "I stepped into the barn stage during the fund raiser, Barn Blast. Now I’m hooked. Never knowing what will happen, what strange twists and turns the plot takes is just great fun."


"Barn Bar," located in the fictional town of New Ole, is the meeting place for a diverse group of people: lumberyard workers, a dump-yard owner, an Irish filmmaker, a drive-thru funeral home director and a mysterious woman, to name a few. Original music performed by the actors augments the show.

There is little time spent rehearsing before the shoot and filming takes a couple of hours. Camera people and technicians have a difficult job editing two hours of tape into a few minutes of a finished episode. They are learning as they go.

"We’ve taped three episodes this spring and the best thing is the wonderful sense of taking part in a creative project where there is no boss or director," Sanborn said. "I love the collaboration between friends and the sense of accomplishment when we’ve made something out of nothing."

"I’m not sure where we will end up but most likely we will continue to morph into a very entertaining blip on your computer screen with more strangeness and humor per second," Devick said.

Sanborn agrees.

"‘Barn Bar’ is beyond anything normal or predictable. It stretches the imagination for the actors and viewers."

Debi Neville is a Rochester freelance writer.

To view "Barn Bar" episodes, or for more information, go to


Barn Bar

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