A thousand Vermont students help Weston Playhouse cap a rousing season

Last week, over 1,000 area students traveled to Weston Playhouse for subsidized matinee performances of Arthur Miller’s All My Sons. The final MainStage American Masters production capped a record-breaking summer season celebrating the classics and nurturing the new and brought part one of the Company’s two-year 80th Anniversary celebration to a close.

2016 kicked off in February with the launch of a new education and outreach program, Weston 101, and a capacity crowd for a free concert featuring the latest work of Off Broadway writer/composer Kirsten Childs. Nominated by The Sundance Institute Theatre Program and commissioned by Playwrights Horizons, Childs took home Weston’s 10th Annual New Musical Award for “Bella: An American Tall Tale.” Spring brought Weston’s 9thAnnual Artist Retreat. Among the group of actors, composers, directors, and playwrights who spent the week living and working on campus were David Holthouse and Markus Potter. The two logged revisions of their co-creation, “Stalking the Bogeyman,” which premiered at London’s Southwark Playhouse this July.

MainStage performances opened in June with the epic musical adventure, Man of La Mancha, directed by Tim Fort. Starring top talent from Broadway and the country’s major regional theatres, the production impressed with stellar performances, lavish sets, and a real sense of seeking “The Impossible Dream.” Following La Mancha, a fun-filled romp with Round and Round the Garden, the third play of Alan Ayckbourn’s comic trilogy, The Norman Conquests. In a historic collaboration more than two years in the making, Weston partnered with Vermont’s Dorset Theatre Festival and Northern Stage to produce the entire trilogy with one cast, one creative team, and three outstanding directors. Audiences traveled from theatre to theatre for this once-in-lifetime theatrical event!

In keeping with tradition, the Young Company opened Weston’s OtherStages season with an inspired, engaging rendition of Schoolhouse Rock, Live!directed by Susan Haefner. New works that followed included Pulitzer Finalist Dael Orlandersmith’s tour de force, Forever, and the outrageously fun Off-Broadway comedy, Murder for TwoMamma Mia! was the feel-good show of the summer and, even with added performances, sold out its entire August run. With a stellar cast of national talent and Weston favorites, critics called it “better than Broadway!” The production coincided with year two of Weston’s Broadway Theatre Camp, a three-week performing arts intensive for teens produced in collaboration with Burr and Burton Academy’s creative arts department that culminated in a MainStage performance by participating students. To close the season, high marks for All My Sons. Mary B. Robinson’s superb direction of a brilliant ensemble cast brought Miller’s first major success to new life; the second of Weston’s American Masters offerings, it was funded in part by the National Endowment for the Arts.

Off stage, the Company pulled off its biggest feat yet. Honoring star of stage and screen Christopher Lloyd at the first annual Weston Honors in August, Lloyd also led the groundbreaking festivities for Weston’s Center for the Arts at Walker Farm. The Center will be a multi-purpose performance, event, and workshop space to complement the historic playhouse, with a first production scheduled for October 2017.

Full steam ahead, Weston plans to announce its 2017 MainStage offerings before the fall is up. “We felt the best way to celebrate 80 years of producing at Weston was to strive for even greater quality and vitality – and we achieved just that,” commented Producing Artistic Director Steve Stettler. “We’re grateful to our artists, staff, board, audiences, funders, and press who helped us realize an exceptional season which points to an even brighter future.” To stay in touch or learn more, visit westonplayhouse.org.

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