Gala for Performing Arts Center coming up on April 30 | Community News

BENNINGTON — The Bennington Performing Arts Center, home of Oldcastle Theater Company, will host a fundraising gala on April 30 to mark the 50th anniversary of live professional theater in town. It will be held at the Mount Anthony Country Club starting at 6 pm, and will include a sit-down dinner, open bar, entertainment, and live and silent auctions. The cost is $150 per person.

The gala is an opportunity to honor longtime theater supporters Bob and Cora May Howe. They have been generous supporters not only of the theater but many other cultural and educational operations in the region, including the Bennington Museum, the Vermont Arts Exchange, the Fund For North Bennington, the Bennington Free Library, and others.

The original theater group, called “The Pauper Players,” was created by Eric Peterson and four friends in 1972 and staged its first production, “The Hollow Crown,” at the Park McCullough Historic House. It soon changed its name to Oldcastle Theatre, named for Sir John Oldcastle, who was the model for Shakespeare’s Falstaff. The group has performed in theaters at the local high school, Southern Vermont College, and the Laumeister Center. It now has its own home at 331 Main Street, having converted the former Knights of Columbus hall into an intimate theater with 130 seats.

Over the years it has staged more than 300 plays, including “A Thousand Clowns,” “Oklahoma!,” “On Golden Pond,” “A Streetcar Named Desire,” “The Importance of Being Earnest,” “Driving Miss Daisy,” “The Fantasticks,” “The Philadelphia Story,” “Inherit the Wind,” “My Fair Lady,” “The Lion in Winter,” “Brighton Beach Memoirs,” “My Fair Lady,” “Cabaret,” and “Jacques Brel is Alive and Well and Living in Paris.” The 50-year run is extraordinary given that most regional theaters have a life span of less than five years.

In addition to Peterson, who wrote, directed, and acted in many plays, as well as serving as artistic director for most of Oldcastle’s history, the casts have included such local favorites as Rick Howe, Christine Decker, Gary Poe, Daryl Kenny, Willy Jones, Carleton Carpenter and Shelli DuBoff.

In recent years, Oldcastle has transformed itself into the Bennington Performing Acts Center, which is a robust year round operation, that in addition to professional Actors Equity theater, also stages community theater, cabaret theater, and youth theater, along with concerts, films, poetry readings, and acting classes for children and adults. According to Jennifer Jasper, the executive director, “We want to provide affordable entertainment and education for people of all ages, and put people on the stage as well as in the seats.” The theater intends to be a significant part of the redevelopment of Bennington’s historic downtown center, and become a new public square that will provide many different kinds of forums for residents.

Reservations must be made by April 19, and anyone interested in buying tickets can contact the theater at 802 447-0564 or purchase online at bpacvt.org/tickets.

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