When Northern Stage lights its stage for Living Together this week, three Vermont theatre companies will begin their historic collaboration on The Norman Conquests. Living Together runs April 20 – May 8, 2016. It will be followed by Table Manners at the Dorset Theatre Festival from June 16-July 2, 2016. The final play in the series, Round and Round the Garden will close out the trilogy at the Weston Playouse July 21-30, 2016.
The Norman Conquests is a brilliant comic trilogy telling the same story from the point of view of three different rooms: Living Together follows the romp in the living room; Table Manners times perfectly to show what happens in the dining room, and Round and Round the Garden depicts desperately funny activities in the garden. Each play stands completely on its own, but together, they are a triumph of theatrical imagination. Northern Stage, Weston Playhouse, and Dorset Theatre Festival are teaming up in an historical Vermont collaboration to present all three plays between April and July 2016. There is little doubt that many audience members will travel to all three theaters to see the full trilogy for an unmatched theatrical experience.
An hysterical and often poignant romp through one day in the lives of some excruciatingly unhappy thirty-somethings in England. Norman, a librarian with unruly hair and even more unruly manners, arrives at a country house for a “dirty weekend” with the downtrodden Annie, who for years has been trapped taking care of her mother in a big Victorian house in the country. Without revealing her real plans, Annie has enlisted her brother, Reg, and his wife, Sarah, to look after the tyrannical Mum.
Also scheduled is the Dorset Theatre Festival and Table Manners, for info visit www.dorsettheatrefestival.org Then, the Weston Playhouse does Round and Round the Garden, for their information, visit www.westonplayhouse.org
It’s a historic first in many ways, from the nature of the collaboration to the immensity of the project. Credit must be shared by 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.
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.