Bill Blachly and Ann O'Brian, Founders
Vermont Theatre Festival
Yeomen of the Guard
Gilbert and Sullivan
June 27 July -13
When the previous Gilbert and Sullivan opera, Ruddigore, finished its run at the Savoy Theatre, no new Gilbert and Sullivan opera was ready, and for nearly a year the stage was devoted to revivals of the company's old successes H.M.S. Pinafore, The Pirates of Penzance and The Mikado. For several years leading up to the premiere of Yeomen, Sullivan had expressed the desire to leave his partnership with W.S. Gilbert in order to turn to writing grand opera and other serious works full-time. Before the premiere of Yeomen, Sullivan had recently been lauded for the successful cantata The Golden Legend and would produce his grand opera, Ivanhoe, only 15 months after Yeomen.
In the autumn of 1887, after another attempt to interest his collaborator in a plot where the characters, by swallowing a magic pill, became who they were pretending to be (Sullivan had rejected this idea before), Gilbert made an effort to meet his collaborator half way. Gilbert claimed that the idea for the opera came to him while he was waiting for the train in Uxbridge and spotted an advertisement for The Tower Furnishing and Finance Company, illustrated with a Beefeater. On Christmas Day, 1887, he read to Sullivan and Carte his plot sketch for an opera set at the Tower of London. Sullivan was "immensely pleased" and, with much relief, accepted it, writing in his diary, "Pretty story, no topsy turvydom, very human, & funny also".
July 18 Aug 3
Voynitsky, called Uncle Vanya, is bitterly disappointed when he realizes that he has sacrificed and wasted his life managing the country estate and business affairs of his former brother-in-law, Serebryakov, who, Vanya discovers, will never be anything more than a pedantic second-rate academic. Sonya, Serebryakov’s daughter and Vanya’s assistant, silently endures her unrequited love for a local physician. Vanya attempts to shoot Serebryakov but misses, and little changes. Neither of them can give up the work, however meaningless, to which they have devoted their lives.
Much Ado About Nothing
July 18 - Aug. 3
The play is set in Messina and revolves around two romantic pairings that emerge when a group of soldiers arrive in the town. The first, between Claudio and Hero, is nearly scuppered by the accusations of the villain, Don John. The second, between Claudio's friend Benedick and Hero's cousin Beatrice, takes centre stage as the play continues, with both characters' wit and banter providing much of the humour.
Through "noting" (sounding like "nothing" and meaning gossip, rumour, overhearing), Benedick and Beatrice are tricked into confessing their love for each other, and Claudio is tricked into believing that Hero is not a maiden (virgin). The title's play on words references the secrets and trickery that form the backbone of the play's comedy, intrigue, and action.
Returning to Haifa
Commissioned by New York’s Public Theater, this play never reached the stage because of pressure from the board. They missed a trick because it is a powerful and disturbing piece now receiving its belated premiere. Adapted by Ismail Khalidi and Naomi Wallace from a novella by the Palestinian writer Ghassan Kanafani (1936-72), it works on several levels: as a poignant family drama, as a plea for Israeli-Palestinian understanding and as a warning of what will follow without some form of reconciliation.
The play shows a Palestinian couple returning to Haifa in 1967 in search of the house and son they
were forced to abandon 20 years previously during mass evictions by Israeli forces. They constantly debate whether they are right to make the journey. When they arrive, they find their old home occupied by the widowed Miriam who fled from Poland after her father was sent to Auschwitz and who adopted the couple’s son and brought him up as a naturalised Israeli.
This could easily be a propaganda piece. Instead, it offers a moving confrontation between two sets of displaced people and an utterly unsentimental exploration of the complexities of home, history and parenthood. Said, the aggrieved Palestinian father, is a truculent figure whose aggression is matched, possibly to excess, by that of the son he lost. Surveying the Haifa house he once owned, Said also says, more in prophetic sorrow than in anger, that it will take a war to settle ancient wrongs.
Adults $30, Children 12 and under $15.
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