Playhouse opens doors for the season

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WEST CHESTERFIELD, N.H. — The Actors Theatre Playhouse on the corner of Brook and Main streets opened its doors this spring to chase the chill of winter out in preparation for its 2018 season with The Ten-Minute Play Festival opening tonight, June 7, at 7:30 p.m. for Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays through June 23. This is the 11th year of its 43-year history that the Playhouse has produced these quick blasts that quickly get to meat of the story like a haiku. Featuring seven winners of this year's Actors Theatre's Regional Competition are stories on love and marriage, cross generations, old love letters, truths exposed, the love of a duck, and more.

In years past, the Playhouse ended its season with this Festival but after seeing how popular it was Pilo began scheduling it to open the season since 2016. Sam Pilo, managing director and founder of Actors Theatre, reaches out to theater departments and college drama clubs, soliciting 10-minute plays for the competition from which he and a team of directors choose 30, then narrow it down to seven or eight plays. The team is not afraid to take a chance, often not sure exactly how it will actually work, but pick pieces in which the depth is interesting, capturing a moment in time that are not necessarily cutting edge. The 2018 winning plays are "Kamasutra" by Tom Coash; "Forget Me Not" by Myra Slotnick; "Taking Up Space" by John Greiner-Ferris; "Film Appreciation" by David Sussman; "Quack" by Patrick Gabridge; "Shaken By A Low Sound" by Darcy Bruce; and "Dear Susan Love Harold" by James Walczy.

Actors are sought through word of mouth in the acting community, or in some cases actively recruited by Pilo, veteran actors and those who have never acted before are invited to auditions in an informal table reading. Pilo feels this setting makes prospective actors less nervous and more fun, and the actors are grateful for that.

Pilo said what separates ATP from other theater companies is that they take a long-range approach to the material so that it is known well by the actors. These auditions are held in December for the June production, allowing enough time to really learn the play and get it right. Because there is such long-range planning actors are also more able to plan and commit to the schedule around very hectic and busy lifestyles, although Pilo works hard to accommodate everyone. He also tries to place an actor into two different roles for variety, such as comedy and drama.

"There are a lot of new actors this year, I think it is great," said Pilo.

The Ten-Minute plays take place on Thursdays, Fridays, and Saturdays for the next three weeks in the historic Citizen's Hall located only 2 and one-half miles from the junction of routes 9 and 5 in Brattleboro.

Built as a Community Hall in 1886 to feed the farmhands, this rustic landmark has had many uses including as a grange, a dance hall, and a theater for drama clubs before sitting dormant. In 1975 West Chesterfield Citizen and Ladies Benevolent Society raised funds to repair the roof, chimneys and clapboards with the hopes of utilizing the building again, . however, the building still hosted little activity until 1987 when Pilo saw its potential as a performing arts space. Volunteers raised funds amounting to $4,000 to repair the damage that had been done by vandals as it sat idle, and volunteers installed lighting, painted, did carpentry repairs, and replaced broken windows and installed the red cushioned chairs from the former Latchis Ballroom. Proceeds from ticket sales help continue to maintain the building.

ATP has called it home since then, carrying with it its own history. Actors Theatre had its beginnings in the church building that now houses Hotel Pharmacy as the producing arm of the Brattleboro Center for Performing Arts. At the end of the '70s, Pilo relocated to the Latchis Ballroom on Flat Street when Pilo officially formed the Actors Theater as a non-profit organization calling the Ballroom home until the ceiling collapsed, leaving them a nomad theater company, often borrowing space at the Hooker-Dunham Theater until settling in West Chesterfield.

Pilo pointed out that ATP is a niche market, offering a different kind of entertainment with a respect for theater and literature. He said because they are more interested in literature versus just entertainment, it is something people really like, that ATP is more of a studio theater than a performance theater, adding, "The library is our best audience."

ATP's season continues with Saturday evening Staged Readings of Richard Nelson's "Women of a Certain Age" July 7 and July 14, and Lillian Hellman's "The Little Foxes" July 21 and July 28. The Main Stage productions present Ron Hutchinson's "Moonlight and Magnolias," on Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays, Aug. 9 through Sept. 1. Finally a production of Florian Zeller's "The Father," on Fridays and Saturdays, Sept. 21 through Oct. 13.

Pilo credits the success of ATP to, "Volunteers. Because we love doing it that we have managed to survive." It helps that the playhouse came into being at just the right time too.

Reservations are highly recommended and may be made by calling 877-666-1855. For more information about this year's plays, visit ATPlayhouse.org.

Cicely M. Eastman may be reached at 802-254-2311, ext. 261










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