Highlights: Vermont Playwright Finds a Hall in Bradford

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    Carole Vasta Folley, left, and Robin Owen rehearse for a one-night performance of "The Seymour Sisters" at the Old Church Theater in Bradford, Vt., on June 18, 2016. (Courtesy photograph)

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    Carole Vasta Folley, left, and Robin Owen are to give a one-night performance of "The Seymour Sisters" at the Old Church Theater in Bradford, Vt., on June 18, 2016. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photograph

  • Jazz guitarist Freddie Bryant is one of the headliners at Hartland JazzFest on Saturday, June 18, 2016. (Courtesy photograph) Courtesy photograph

Valley News Staff Writer
Published: 6/15/2016 10:01:22 PM
Modified: 6/15/2016 10:01:27 PM

Have script, will travel.

So went the pitch that playwright Carole Vasta Folley threw to community theaters around Vermont last winter, in a search for places to stage her two-woman play, The Seymour Sisters, during a tour in the summer of 2016.

She heard first from Bradford’s Old Church Theater, which this Saturday night will host the kickoff performance, with Vasta Folley playing one of two siblings faced with the task of sorting through their late parents’ belongings, and their own fraught relationship.

“I reached out to a lot of different theaters,” Vasta Folley recalled last week. “They were quickest to respond.”

Old Church Theater President Gloria Heidenreich liked the premise of the play as soon as Vasta Folley’s message hit the company’s email inbox last March.

“We can all relate to it,” Heidenreich said Tuesday. “The hurts and the joys, especially if you’re of a certain age and have been through it.”

In Bradford and later in Springfield, Waitsfield, Burlington and Stowe, Vasta Folley, a longtime theater devotee from Essex Junction who started writing her own plays in 2008, will go through it on stage.

“There’s nothing like being in it,” Vasta Folley said. “It’s challenged me in ways I couldn’t have predicted. The play is much better for it. As an actor in a scene, you know whether it works or not. I am that character, and the dialogue flows.”

The Seymour Sisters covers emotional territory that Vasta Folley has explored since the debut in 2008 of her Pronouncing Glenn, in which a caregiver for an elderly woman keeps her client’s death a secret from the woman’s daughter and granddaughter — who live downstairs in the same house — for two years, with the help of an air-conditioner.

The rift between the dead woman and her daughter in Glenn “really helped define my niche in everything I write,” Vasta Folley said. “It’s all about relationships. Not so much what we did, but who we loved.”

And in most of her work, it’s been about nature taking its course.

“I think you’ll find death in every play I write,” Vasta Folley said. “This is my fifth play, and I’ve got two about half-written. Almost all of them have a component of death in them.”

And yet humor keeps growing almost organically out of the end-of-life scenarios.

“It is something of national consciousness right now,” Vasta Folley said. “There’s a lack of material for this demographic, especially women. I’m interested in writing roles for women in their 50s and 60s, who want more material that’s alive and funny.”

Encouragement for Vasta Folley to continue examining these subjects came in 2015. After winning a Vermont Playwright Award for The Sleepover: A Comedy of Marriage, she received two grants for The Seymour Sisters, one from Burlington’s Flynn Center for the Arts to create and develop the drama for a workshop-in-progress performance at FlynnSpace this spring, and one from the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund to tour the play around Vermont.

“A lot of the feedback from the workshop, which basically covered Act I, was, ‘What happens next?’ ” Vasta Folley said. “I knew that I didn’t want it to sit in a drawer, the way a lot of plays do.”

The timing for Old Church to host the debut of Sisters fell conveniently between the company’s June production of the Ira Levin play Dr. Cook’s Garden and the July staging of Dead to the Last Drop, Ken Jones’ mystery-comedy that invites interaction by the audience in determining the ending.

With all the action taking place in the parents’ bedroom, The Seymour Sisters also will require a minimum of set design. And in addition to paying the theater’s $50 fee for the night, Vasta Folley has pledged to donate the proceeds to the theater, according to Old Church’s publicity chief, Jim Heidenreich.

“Not that we expect to make a killing,” Jim Heidenreich said, “but it’s good for our town, good for our theater.”

The setting of the date also was good for the playwright’s sense of urgency, both in editing and in rehearsals.

“I have to start memorizing my own words,” she said.

The Seymour Sisters opens at the Old Church Theater in Bradford on Saturday night at 7:30. To reserve tickets ($10 to $12) and learn more, visit oldchurchtheater.org or call 802-222-3322.

Best Bets

A tsunami of jazz washes over the White and Ottauquechee river valleys during the coming week and a half, starting Saturday afternoon with the fifth annual Hartland JazzFest in the field behind the Hartland Library.

The festival headliners are guitarist Freddie Bryant, who brings a repertoire ranging among flamenco, samba, Arabic and Middle Eastern melodies, Afro-Cuban and Senegalese rhythms; and pianist Armen Donelian, who with his trio blends the music of his Armenian heritage with classical, jazz, Latin and Middle Eastern tonalities.

Filling out the afternoon and evening will be the New England Conservatory Jazz Ensemble, the 17-piece Keene Jazz Orchestra, the eight-member a capella chorus Maple Jam and Interplay Jazz.

Also, guitarist Billy Rosen will lead a jam featuring Upper Valley all-stars, and Carlos Ocasio’s Frydaddy band will set the rhythm for a dance party. Between sets, the jazz/funk bands from Woodstock Union High School and Middle School will play. Admission at the gate is by donation, recommended at $15.

On Sunday night at 7:30 at Northern Stage’s Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction, faculty musicians from Interplay Jazz and Arts’ upcoming jazz camp celebrate the legacy of Louis Armstrong with a Father’s Day “pops” concert. For tickets ($24) and more information, visit interplayjazzandarts.org/events.

The beat goes on Wednesday night at the Little Theater in Woodstock, with a swing dance featuring a big band of Interplay faculty and students. Admission at the door is $20.

For information about these shows and the Interplay performances that follow next Thursday and on June 24 and 25, visit interplayjazzandarts.org/events.

In a show benefiting a fund for young adults with cancer, Burlington-based stand-up veteran Kendall Farrell headlines a parade of comedians taking the stage Friday night at the Main Street Museum in White River Junction. Joining Farrell, 2015 winner of the Vermont’s Funniest Comedian Contest, on stage will be Bitsy Biron and Dan Gilbert. The doors open at 7 and the show begins at 7:30. Proceeds from ticket sales ($12 in advance from mainstreetcomedy.eventbrite.com, $15 at the door) will go to Sy’s Fund, in memory of Silas Bennett, a Keene State College journalism student who died in 2008. For more information about the show, call Lorraine Kerz at 413-512-9177. To learn more about the fund, visit sysfund.org.

Revels North celebrates the solstice on Saturday night with a circus-themed Summer Revels on the green in Norwich. The festivities begin at 5:30 with giant puppets, roving performers, crafts and food stalls. Starting at 7, Revels performers will perform in a theater-in-the-round format, encouraging the audience to join in singing, dancing, clogging, broom dancing and a mummer’s play. Admission is free. For more information, visit revelsnorth.org/summer-revels.

Claremont Summerfest kicks off its inaugural series of concerts benefiting the Arrowhead Recreation Area with a performance of classic-rock favorites by the Doug Wahlberg Band on Saturday night at 7 at the ski hill; Simple Machines opens at 5:30, and the gates open at 4. Admission is $15 to $20. For more information, visit claremontsummerfest.com.

Looking Ahead

On the Dartmouth green in Hanover next Thursday afternoon at 5:30, Red Baraat will kick off the Hopkins Center’s “Free for All” series of summer concerts with a multi-instrumental performance of Indian drumming in company with hip-hop, R&B, rock and jazz. At 4:30, Dartmouth percussion-ensemble director and music professor Hafiz Shabazz will host a demonstration of the band’s percussion instruments, which the audience is invited to try playing.

Fiddler-composer Jeremy Kittel will perform at First Congregational Church on Thetford Hill next Thursday night at 7. Joining him will be mandolinist Joshua Pinkham, cellist Nathaniel Smith and hammered-dulcimer player Simon Chrisman. Admission is $10 to $20. To learn more, visit jeremykittel.com.

Theater/Performance Art

New London Barn Playhouse stages the Lerner-and-Loewe musical Brigadoon through June 26, including performances tonight, Friday night and Saturday night at 7:30, Sunday afternoon at 5, Tuesday night at 7:30, Wednesday afternoon at 2 and Wednesday night at 7:30. For tickets ($20 to $40) and more information, visit the box office in New London or nlbarn.org, or call 603-526-6710

Opening Friday night, the BarnArts Center for the Arts will take Will Eno’s The Realistic Joneses outdoors at Fable Farm in Barnard. Performances are scheduled for 7 on Friday, Saturday and Wednesday nights and the show runs through June 26. For tickets ($10 to $15) and more information, visit barnarts.org or call 802-234-1645.

Opera North stages its preseason gala at the Lebanon Opera House on Saturday night, mixing food and a silent auction with a live performance by some of this summer’s singers and dancers on the tango-infused theme of “Art of the Possible: A Night in Argentina.” Admission to the gala, which runs from 6 to 10, is $150. For more information visit operanorth.org.


The Loose Cannons play during the Lebanon Farmer’s Market this afternoon between 4 and 7.

Soul musician Myra Flynn performs tonight from 5:30 to 8, during the weekly Feast and Field Farmer’s Market at 1544 Royalton Turnpike in Barnard.

The Joe Mitchell Project plays R&B and rock at the Norwich Women’s Club’s first free summer concert of the season on Friday night at 6 on the Norwich Green.

Gypsy Reel joins author/songwriter Jon Clinch at the SILO Distillery in Windsor on Sunday afternoon, for a Father’s Day performance of Americana and Celtic tunes and songs. The acoustic session runs from noon to 2. For more information, visit silodistillery.com or call 802-674-4220.

The Main Street Museum in White River Junction is inviting musicians and singers of all ages and abilities, as well as attentive listeners, to Vermont’s first observance of the international Make Music Day on Tuesday afternoon from 4 to 7. In addition to performances on the museum’s main stage, music-makers are welcome to improvise and jam on the porch. To schedule a time to perform, email senayitt@gmail.com. For more information about the gathering, visit mainstreetmuseum.org.

The RoadTrash Band plays a set of classic rock on the bandstand at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction on Wednesday night at 6:30.

Bar and Club Circuit

In observance of Bloomsday, William Heffernan recites four excerpts from James Joyce’s Ulysses at the Canoe Club in Hanover tonight at 6:30. Following him to the microphone with 6:30 to 9:30 shows are pianist Gillian Joy on Friday, pianist Randall Mullen on Saturday and pianist Jonathan Kaplan on Wednesday.

The Jerrymanders pull into Windsor Station for a set of rock tonight from 7 to 10. Next up over the coming week are Dionysia on Friday night at 9 and singer-songwriter Erik Boedtker on Tuesday night at 6.

Singer-songwriter Matt Meserve plays at Jesse’s restaurant in Hanover on Friday night starting at 5.

Mo’Combo sets the rhythm for dancing at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night starting at 8.

The Friday night line-up at the Upper Valley’s Salt hill Pubs features Hilton Park with a set of Americana, folk and blues in Lebanon and guitarist Bob Rutherford in Hanover. On Saturday, the choices are the Sullivan Davis Hascom Band in Newport, acoustic rocker Kyle Boisvert in Hanover and Jester Jigs with an acoustic set of rock in Lebanon. All shows start at 9.

The Burlington-based rock band Swale appears at Bentley’s restaurant on Friday and Saturday nights at 9:30.

Open Mics

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Joe Stallsmith leads a weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass at Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Monday nights at 6.

Bradford’s Colatina Exit holds an open mic on Tuesdays at 8 p.m.

The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic on Tuesday nights at 8.

Jim Yeager hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, at 8:30 on Wednesday nights.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

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