Weston Playhouse Theatre capital campaign moves ahead

The Weston Playhouse Theatre Company's $10 million capital campaign has reached another milestone: conditional approval by the town of Weston Zoning Board of Adjustment and the Planning Commission of the company's plan to build a new studio theatre on the former Walker dairy farm in Weston Village.

Located on Route 100 South - Weston's Main Street - the new theatre will complement the historic flagship Weston Playhouse on the Weston Village Green.

The 2,900-square-foot building will accommodate up to 140 people in a flexible seating plan that allows for both theatrical and community uses.

The five-acre parcel includes the Walker farmhouse, barns and two large silos, which will be preserved.

According to Steve Stettler, Weston's producing artistic director, “We will, of course, continue to offer great summer shows in the Weston Playhouse, but this project will allow us to extend our reach.”

During the summer, the theater at Walker Farm will serve as a setting for thought-provoking pieces and other shows that are better suited to a smaller and more flexible space, Stettler added.

He explained the new theater will also expand its season into the autumn and provide a community resource for meetings and “all kinds of events.”

Beyond that, Stettler said, the studio theater “will be the centerpiece of our project to create an incubator for the performing arts in Vermont - a greatly expanded program to develop new musicals and plays, bringing theater artists from across the U.S. to work and create in a quiet rural setting. The program will enhance Vermont's reputation for excellence in the arts, have a positive economic impact on our region, and make a major contribution to the future of the American theater.”

The new theater is a major part of the theater company's $10 million capital campaign.

In addition to the land acquisition, design, and construction costs of the new building, the campaign includes a $500,000 education endowment, $1 million in improvements to the Weston Playhouse building, and a $1.5 million Fund for the American Theatre, which will provide approximately $200,000 annually over seven years in support of the new works incubator.

The campaign, chaired by Wayne Granquist, chair emeritus of the theater company, has raised $5.4 million to date. With a target construction start date of April 2015, the company hopes to produce on the Walker Farm by the summer of 2016.

According to Granquist, Walker Farm was home to Kenneth and Anna Walker and to Gladys Walker, who performed in the community's first production at the original Weston Playhouse in 1935 and remained active in the theater throughout her life.

Gladys Walker, he said, organized the ushers, collected tickets, and attended almost every production, sitting front and center, up until the month prior to her death at 102.

“This project is the culmination of her dream to bring world-class professional theater to Weston on a year-round basis,” Granquist said.

Subscribe to the newsletter for weekly updates