We are happy to welcome guest celebrity blogger playwright Theresa Rebeck, a Pulitzer Prize finalist whose plays include Broadway's Mauritius and Off-Broadway's Omnium Gatherum (co-written with Alexandra Gersten-Vassilaros), Bad Dates, Spike Heels, The Understudy, Loose Knit, The Butterfly Collection, The Water's Edge, The Scene, Our House and more. Rebeck, whose play The Novelist will be presented at the Dorset Theatre Festival in August, will blog for Playbill.com all week; her second entry follows.
Somebody told me a couple weeks ago that summer stock is dying. He made it sound like one of the stepping stones to the inevitable end of culture. No one wants theater anymore, so of course they don't want summer theater, especially in a recession. Summer stock is a big old lumbering dinosaur which just can't survive. And then fiction will die and poetry is already dead.
That is not my experience up here in Dorset, Vermont. The Dorset Theater Festival presents a four-show season in one of those great old barn theaters, starting in late June and running through the end of August. It fell upon hard times the past few seasons, which had to do with a myriad of different factors which no one really wants to talk about because people here aren't all that interested in wallowing in past mistakes; they're more interested in figuring out how to make things work. Honestly, Vermont reminds me of China. Everybody is so pragmatic.
So this year, the Dorset Theater Festival hired Dina Janis to take over as Artistic Director. Dina lives in Dorset with her husband and two sons. When she was a kid, she grew up in the Chicago Playboy Mansion because her father, who was a musician, played the Playboy circuit and he dragged everyone along with him, and in between gigs that's where they crashed and then finally they just ended up living there. Then, when she hit high school, Dina studied with Barbara Greener, along with Gary Sinise and Jeff Perry, and they started producing theater in church basements out in Highland Park, and that led to starting their own company, which they called Steppenwolf. Then Dina decided it was time to go to New York to study on her own, which she did. The last few years she's been teaching at Bennington College and hosting New York theater companies like LAByrinth, who come up and work with her and her students during the summer.
Dina also adopted me when I showed up at her doorstep. When I bought my sweet little farmhouse in the middle of nowhere, there were strange forces at work, and after a bunch of nutty complications I ended up owning another house across the road. (It truly is too long and weird to go into how that all happened.) I didn't know what to do with two houses, but it did seem to me that one possible solution would be to have a writer's colony once a year, so, working with Michael Robertson and Daniella Topol at the Lark, we figured out how to make that happen. I cannot even remember how Dina found out about it, but she did. So for the past three years the work that has come out of the Theresa Rebeck Writer's Colony ended up getting fantastic readings at the Dorset Theater Festival under Dina's direction.
And then Dina took over the Dorset Theater Festival, and now they're doing new plays.
This is all a true story. I didn't make any of that up. And now Dina's strange genius for making things happen is taking over Dorset. There are banners all over the Dorset Green announcing that it is the Theater Festival's 35th Anniversary Season. An arts writer came out from the Boston Globe to cover the opening of their first show. They have a tapas bar and live music on Fridays and Saturdays, before the performances. (My son Cooper played; he did great.) And now I have six exceptional actors throwing themselves into one my plays so that we can do it in that beautiful old theater in three weeks.
And p.s. my friend Jayne Benjulian just came up for a week to stay in my guest house and work on her book of poetry.
The dinosaurs are making a lot of noise in Dorset. Plus, it's 72 and sunny.