|Vermont’s oldest professional theatre is a living testament to a community’s belief in the arts. In 1935, while the Great Depression was raging, Weston-born architect Raymond Austin was putting the finishing touches on a playhouse that one Boston Globe critic would dub “the most beautiful theatre in New England.” A former church renovated for the town’s dramatic club, the Weston Playhouse quickly attracted the attention of director Harlan Grant, who produced the theatre’s first summer stock season in 1937, featuring a young actor named Lloyd Bridges.
The company flourished under Grant and later producer Walter Boughton, giving a start to such talented artists as Emmy award-winning actor Christopher Lloyd and Tony-winning designer John Lee Beatty. Musicals were added to the canon, then a late-night Cabaret and a restaurant. Its community’s devotion proved strong through three war-torn summers in the 1940’s, a 1962 fire that destroyed the original Greek revival building, and flooding which challenged its replacement a decade later.
In 1988 Producing Directors Malcolm Ewen, Tim Fort, and Steve Stettler, concerned at the mounting cost of running a high quality professional operation, rededicated the theatre to its community and reorganized it as a non-profit Equity company. The Weston Playhouse is now an award-winning regional theatre nationally known for its multi-stage summer festival and its year-round Education and New Works Programs. Currently in the midst of a capital campaign to preserve the Walker farmstead in Weston as a year-round center for play development, its future seems brighter than ever.
At the end of last summer’s successful 75th anniversary season, Tropical Storm Irene brought flooding which devastated the lower level of the Playhouse. Thanks to the efforts of artists, staff, and friends from near and far, the WPTC rallied again to remount the final performances of its first world premiere musical, Saint-Ex, and to raise the funds to help restore the building. With flood repairs completed and upgrades made to all three of its stages, the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company continues to extend its deep roots into the soil of a faithful Vermont community and its branches into the theatrical firmament.