Oldcastle launches drive to fund new roof


BENNINGTON — The first thing Eric Peterson, producing artistic director at Oldcastle Theatre Company, does when he arrives at 331 Main St. each morning is not call actors or read scripts or negotiate for royalties.

Peterson said he checks on and empties seven buckets that have collected water overnight. These buckets, fortunately, are behind the scenery when Oldcastle presents its plays, but the roof — patched many times — represents a major threat to the theater building.

The Oldcastle organization, now called Bennington Performing Arts Center — The Home of Oldcastle Theatre Company, is launching a public campaign to raise $100,000 for a new roof with insulation.

The goal is the second stage of a $350,000 campaign that includes the recent purchase of Oldcastle's home for much of the past decade.

A group of donors contributed $250,000 to acquire the building as part of the Bennington Redevelopment Group transaction in June involving the first phase of the Putnam Block project, encompassing four downtown acres near the Four Corners intersection.

But the roof of the theater needs to be replaced, Oldcastle officials said. A new roof will include solid insulation between the roof deck and the top membrane.

The building, constructed in 1848, had no roof insulation. Savings from insulation could be more than $6,000 a year on heating and air conditioning, theater officials said.

Oldcastle began work on the 300 block of Main Street seven years, before the Putnam Block redevelopment group began its efforts to renovate the historic Putnam Hotel, the Courthouse and Winslow buildings at the Four Corners.

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Bill Colvin, assistant director and Community Development Program coordinator with the Bennington County Regional Commission, has said he sees the theater redevelopment as a key component of the overall multi-year Putnam Block redevelopment plan.

Oldcastle left the now-closed Bennington Center for the Arts in 2011, and with support from local donors and businesses renovated the former Knights of Columbus building that was owned by the Norman Greenberg family.

Since moving into the building, professional theater productions, community theater, cabarets, concerts, lectures, civic meetings, holiday events and student performances have drawn local residents, students, as well as theater lovers from the Berkshires and eastern New York State.

In renaming the organization, the volunteer board and professional staff said they want to emphasize the broader agenda for the performing arts in Bennington.

In addition to its professional theater company — now in its 48th season — the mission of BPAC seeks greater involvement by local residents in community theater productions, concerts and educational activities for adults and children.

In recent months the arts center has hosted Phillip Glass, the Bennington County Choral Society; Saakumu West African Dance Troupe, Southwest Vermont Career Development Center students; cabaret performances involving Matt Edwards, Literary Teas with Lea Newman on Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost; films, an adult acting class; a six-part series on the family in American drama, and community meetings

A major push for contributions is underway during the run of "Brighton Beach Memoirs," the Neil Simon comedy now playing.

Anyone interested in learning more may call Peterson at 802-447-1267, or visit Oldcastletheatre.org.

The Bennington Performing Arts Center — The Home of Oldcastle Theatre is a not-for-profit organization and all gifts are deductible to the extent allowed by law.


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