Editor’s note: The following is the final installment of a four part Advocate series following Oldcastle Theatre Company’s transition to its new home in downtown Bennington.
BENNINGTON -- When Oldcastle Theatre Company artistic director Eric Peterson and a group of fellow actors co-founded the venerable Equity stage in 1972, they took to the road as a traveling show. Now firmly based in its new home in downtown Bennington, the company officially announced its upcoming season, one that puts Oldcastle firmly in the year-round performing camp.
"This is an exciting time for everyone involved with Oldcastle," Peterson said. "With the move downtown, we embraced the opportunity to grow and set the stage for a legacy to pass on to the next generation of our company, our town, and our audiences, the bulk which come from the Berkshires in Massachusetts and the Capital District in New York."
Smart growth; full slate
The eight play slate released by Peterson begins in December and ends in November of 2013. Peterson said Oldcastle’s plan is to complete this first season under its new format, continue to expand community and educational programming in the new Main St. facility, and assess the growth, and its potential, a year from now.
"We have a lot of work ahead, but now we have firmed up our reason for being, the theatre season," Peterson said. "Everyone involved is encouraged that we can pull this off. Our first rehearsals start in a week. This is what our audiences want: More theatre, not less."
The following is a summary of Oldcastle’s 2012-13 season, opening with what Peterson called "a good old-fashioned musical." Assessments from the artistic director also follow:
Dec. 7 - Dec. 23, "Northern Boulevard," Music and lyrics by Bennington native and Hollywood and Broadway veteran Carleton Carpenter. Book by Eric Brofsky. Directed by Eric Peterson. Cast to date: Jessica Raaum, Gil Brady, Cotton Wright, Richard Howe, Cheryl Howard (daughter of New York Yankees great Elston Howard).
Mar. 22 - April 7, "Around the World in 80 Days," by Mark Brown, adapted from the eponymous Jules Verne novel. Directed by Eric Peterson. Cast: Open.
Apr. 26 - May 5, "A Strange Disappearance of Bees," by Elena Hartwell. Cast to date: Melissa Hurst, Gary Poe. Peterson: "A relatively new play; Oldcastle did a reading of it a year and a half ago at the Clark in Williamstown. Has been through several productions and rewritten somewhat. A Vietnam vet, his Amerasian son and a beekeeper, set in a West Coast bakery."
May 24 - June 9, "Other People’s Money," by Jerry Sterner. Directed by Eric Peterson. Cast to date: Jenny Strasburg, Paula Mann. Peterson: "Could have been ripped from today’s headlines: A Wall St. financier who buys up aging industrial companies, strips them bare, lays people off and gets wealthy in the process."
June 28 - July 14, "The Matchmaker," by Thornton Wilder. Cast to date: Christine Decker, plus 15 others. Peterson: "A classic comedy, but with fully dimensional characters you care about."
Aug. 2 - Aug. 18, "The Fox on the Fairway," by Ken Ludwig. Cast to date: Open. Peterson: "a romp of a farce. Ken Ludwig, a D.C. attorney by trade, is a farce genius, and is singlehandedly keep the genre going on American stages. A sex farce about a golf tournament."
Sep. 10 - Sep 27, "Sherlock Holmes - Knight’s Gambit," by Paul Falzone. Cast to date: Joe Warwick, Noreen Sims, Gary Poe. Peterson: "Old school Holmes and Watson for the real Conan Doyle devotees; think more Jeremy Brett than any of the contemporary stuff out there. By Paul Falzone, one of Oldcastle’s founding members."
Nov. 1 - Nov. 17, "Grandma Moses: An American Primitive," by Stephen Pouliot. Cast to date: Christine Decker. Peterson: "Cloris Leachman took this wonderful show on four national tours; we love having here in Vermont, the home of Grandma Moses."
The final play includes collaboration on period costumes with the Bennington Museum. Robert Wolterstorff, the museum’s director, said Oldcastle’s move to downtown Bennington is one of the most important regional events in years.
"I’m thrilled they are bringing ‘Grandma Moses: American Primitive’ to town," Wolterstorff said from Burlington, Vt., where he was attending a conference. "We have the largest body of works by Grandma Moses in a public collection anywhere in the world - more than 40 paintings, along with the table she worked on - a fabulous object in its own right. Drawing on her visual archive is going to give Oldcastle’s production color and authenticity that will underscore the powerful acting. I’m looking forward to working with them."
For his part, Peterson said that with opening night less than a month away, Wolterstorff’s comments were consistent with the community buzz surrounding the new season and year-round theatre.
"Everyone at Oldcastle, from board members to the newest stage hand, feels a great sense of responsibility," he said. "A year ago, we didn’t know if there would ever be another Oldcastle show, let alone a season. Today, we want everyone in the tri-state region to know to know that theatre in Bennington is here to stay."
Oldcastle Theatre Company is located at 331 Main St. in Bennington. Info and tickets: call 802-447-0564, or visit www.old