Arts and Entertainment Editor
BENNINGTON -- As renovation work is about to make its entrance into the new downtown home of the Oldcastle Theatre Company, in the former Knights of Columbus building at 331 Main St., the company's fundraising efforts are already centerstage.
Eric Peterson, producing artistic director of the theater company, said Tuesday that Oldcastle's capital campaign has reached about $700,000 of its $1.1 million goal, and that the theater will hold a special fundraiser cabaret and auction evening in late August. He also said that planning for the renovations has reached the point that a contractor will be hired shortly.
"The capital campaign has begun and we have talked with a series of individuals who have been very generous to Oldcastle in the past, so far we are very, humbly grateful for the response we have gotten," Peterson said, sitting in the upstairs offices of the building. "It is a project of approximately ... ($1.1 million) ... and we have received money or pledges in the $700,000 range so far. We will be announcing the full campaign, in various stages, as we move along."
There was not much work needed to move in, at least in the office space. But there has been a ongoing planning process that will reach the actual renovation contractor phase soon, Peterson said.
"As an office, we did not have to do anything," he said. "We are now working with the town, and have meetings with Larry McLeod (town building and code official) ... we have had numerous meetings with Larry about the renovations and getting the building up to code, for the crowd" of a theater audience. "We are dealing with that kind of thing now."
Renovations include handicapped access and a handicapped bathroom, power upgrades "because of our lighting systems ... all of those things were anticipated," and a versatile stage and seating systems.
"What we have is a wonderful building, what we have to do is make this wonderful building a theater," he said. "We have long wanted to come downtown, and we could not be happier that we are now here."
That relationship with downtown will be celebrated next month as Oldcastle's "Celebrates Downtown: A Cabaret and Auction," is scheduled for Saturday, Aug. 25. Starting at 6 p.m. with cocktails, "pub" fare supplied by Carmody's, and a silent auction, the entertainment will be a varied cabaret performance, mostly by Oldcastle veterans, as well as a live wine auction sponsored by Santé Magazine starting at 8 p.m.
"We are taking as the lead the old Petula Clark song ... ‘Downtown.' We are just thrilled and delighted to be here and we want to celebrate downtown in anyway we can," he said. "It will be a chance to see the building, it certainly won't be done by then, but they can see the progress by then."
The theater is expected to have about 140 to 150 seats that can be configured in various configurations.
As Charles Putney, president of Oldcastle's Board of Trustees, said in a previous statement, the building is "already configured with offices, a large basement for use as a scene shop, dressing rooms and storage, and a main floor with a lobby and large open space for the theatre. We will have a flexible performing space that can be configured as a proscenium, arena (theatre in the round) or three quarters ... we think (about 150 seats is) an ideal size for this community."
Oldcastle, a 40-year-old professional theater company, moved into the former Knights of Columbus building earlier this year thanks to the "generosity of Bennington's Greenberg family," which owned the building.
Oldcastle, in previous statements, stated it will use its new home to offer a range of programs for youth, seniors, amateur actors and playwrights. The building will also be the base for Oldcastle's Actors' Express, a popular touring company that visits schools with interactive programs that are relevant to children and educators.
Peterson, on Tuesday, also announced a planned three-play 2012 season to "tentatively" begin in October, with 10 total plays planned in a "transition period" of late 2012 and throughout 2013. He added that the theater planned to return to a more traditional theater summer schedule in 2014.
Contact K.D. Norris at firstname.lastname@example.org.
A detailed story on the Oldcastle plays planned for this year will appear in this week's Saturday arts section. For information about Oldcastle Theatre Company call 802-447-1267 or visit oldcastletheater.org.