It’s a historic first in many ways, from the nature of the colloration to the immensity of the project. Today, three of Vermont’s well known professional theatres announced their plans for a ground-breaking collaboration for the 2016 season. Joining together in Dorset, Vermont, Artistic Directors Dina Janis of the Dorset Theatre Festival, Carol Dunne of Northern Stage in White River Junction, and Steve Stettler of the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company shared the news that they will partner to bring British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s celebrated comic trilogy, The Norman Conquests, to Vermont audiences in their 2016 seasons.
Janis noted that the theatres were announcing this project at the Marble House Project, a country estate that provides artist residencies, workshops, and sustainable agriculture, in part because The Norman Conquests is set in and around an English country house. She explained that the companies, who have shared artists in recent years, have been searching for a way to work together more closely. The artistic directors all admired the work of Ayckbourn, one of the finest and most prolific playwrights of our time, and the chance to produce three related plays with a shared director, cast and creative team seemed a perfect opportunity for an official partnership.
Stettler said that The Norman Conquests have been praised since their debut in the mid 1970’s as “a tour de force” and “a landmark of theatrical achievement,” with regular revivals on Broadway, on London’s West End, and around the world.
The trilogy follows the amorous exploits of Norman, assistant librarian, who strives to make the women in his life – his wife and her two sisters – happy in the course of a riotous summer weekend. The cast of six become enmeshed in “an ingenious Chinese puzzle” of relationships that can be enjoyed individually, but even more so, collectively.
Dunne presented the details of the collaboration. Northern Stage will conclude its 2015-2016 season, the first in its new Barrette Center for the Arts, in April/May of 2016 with Ayckbourn’s Living Together, set in the living room of the country house. Dorset will follow at the top of its 2016 summer season in June with Table Manners, set in the dining room. Weston will conclude the series with Round and Round the Garden, set in the home’s English garden, in July 2016. Audiences will be given incentives to view the entire trilogy and the project will be marketed jointly statewide. The director, designers and cast are yet to be announced, but discussions are under way.
The artistic directors made clear that The Norman Conquests is the first step in an ongoing program to pool resources and share their work with a wider audience. They have already begun to talk about coordinating a regional festival of new work in the year following The Norman Conquests.