'Judevine' returns to Oldcastle Theatre

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BENNINGTON — David Budbill's "Judevine," the most popular and beloved play in the 48-year history of Oldcastle Theatre Company, opens on Aug. 16. The play has been produced four times by OTC beginning in 1988 but has been absent from the theater's schedule since 2004.

"Theatres, as with libraries, should make available the classics and 'Judevine' is a classic American play," according to Oldcastle's Producing Artistic Director Eric Peterson, who has directed all of the company's previous four productions. "David's extraordinary play is lyrical, funny, thoughtful and thought-provoking, a bit scary at times, sexy, ribald, and poetic." Peterson said.

Set in a fictional Vermont town, the play introduces a large variety of characters making their lives in the rural hamlet, scrapping a living out of logging, planting and harvesting Christmas trees, and other backbreaking work. Budbill's people are Vietnam vets, frazzled mothers trying to feed children on too few dollars, snowmobilers who long for clear, cold winter days gliding through snow covered woods, machinists, storekeepers, and hippies who've abandoned cities searching for a different kind of life and find one more difficult, yet somehow more fulfilling than their previous life. There's Doug, who doesn't like to work too much in the winter because it interferes with his snomachin';" Grace, a fragile young woman with a darkness in her past who might have found salvation in Tommy, a Vietnam vet; Black French Canadian Antoine, who is a laborer and part-time philosopher, and many more.

Budbill was born in Cleveland in 1940 to a street car driver and a minister's daughter. He studied philosophy and art history in college and received a graduate degree in theology at Union Seminary in New York. He worked as a short-order cook and a carpenter, managed a coffee house, labored on a Christmas tree farm, and was an attendant in a mental hospital, forester, pastor and college teacher. Budbill authored four books of poetry, five plays, children's books and fiction for young adults. He received Guggenheim and National Endowment for the Arts Fellowships.

The cast of six is headed by Richard Howe, who has been in all of Oldcastle's productions of "Judevine." Howe joined the company in 1975 just designed the set for "Brighton Beach Memoirs." Last season he was seen in "Proof."

"I am looking forward to returning to 'Judevine", Howe said. "This play has been one of the richest experiences in my acting career. I love the characters and David's dialogue is priceless."

Budbill wrote, "Judevine" (is) a poor, rural mountain town in Vermont, which is a kind of third world country within the boundaries of the United States where, like so many third world countries, there is incredible physical beauty, great suffering, and hardship and a tenacious and indomitable will to survive."

"Visit Judevine with us and you'll be sure to laugh heartily, and probably cry a bit too," Peterson said. But it is for certain you will never forget "Judevine" or its people. They are smart and dumb, generous and greedy, and as capable of hating as they are of loving. In a word they are unforgettable.""Judevine" runs through Sept. 1. Visit oldcastletheatre.org for tickets and information, or call 802-447-0564. 

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