Three theatres in one of the country’s smallest states have a big idea. Vermont’s Dorset Theatre Festival, Northern Stage, and the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company are creating an historic partnership to bring British playwright Alan Ayckbourn’s celebrated comic trilogy, The Norman Conquests, to their stages in the spring and summer of 2016. More than a year in the planning, the collaboration has three nationally prominent directors working with the same cast and creative team on successive productions of the three plays in White River Junction, Dorset, and Weston.
Artistic Directors Dina Janis (Dorset), Carol Dunne (Northern Stage) and Steve Stettler (Weston) have been sharing artists, goods, and ideas for several years while searching for a way to work together more closely. Janis proposed The Norman Conquests and got an immediate “yes” from the others, who share her love of Ayckbourn and agreed that the chance to produce three interrelated plays was a perfect opportunity for a deeper partnership. The trilogy follows the amorous exploits of assistant librarian Norman in and around an English country house on a 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.
Northern Stage will produce the first of the three comedies, Living Together, under the direction of Peter Hackett at the company’s new Barrette Center for the Arts, April 20 to May 8. Dorset will follow with Table Manners, directed by Evan Yionoulis, running June 16 to July 2. Weston will conclude the series with Round and Round the Garden, directed by Michael Berresse, playing July 21 to 30. The design team includes David Arsenault (set), Stuart Duke (lighting), Charles Schoonmaker (costumes), and Jane Shaw (sound). The cast features Richard Gallagher as Norman, Caitlin Clouthier as Sarah, Ashton Heyl as Ruth, Mark Light-Orr as Reg, Jenni Putney as Annie, and Dave Mason as Tom. Danielle Zandri is production stage manager.
Audiences are encouraged to travel from theatre to theatre to view the entire trilogy and to take advantage of various incentives and opportunities including but not limited to local dining options, artist panels, and ticketing collaborations. The Norman Conquests is a #VTarts2016 event, with media sponsorship from Vermont Public Radio. It is the first step in an ongoing three-theatre program to pool resources and share work with a wider audience. The three theatres have already begun to talk about coordinating a regional festival of new work.