What's in a name? The Dorset puzzle explained

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In Romeo and Juliet, William Shakespeare, through Juliet asks,"What's in a name? What we call a rose, by any other name would smell as sweet."

In the case of The Dorset Playhouse, the similarity of the names of its two major production companies has caused much confusion. The Dorset Players, and The Dorset Theatre Festival both perform at The Dorset Playhouse on Cheney Road, and there are many that think that the two entities are synonymous. This has presented numerous issues, not the least of which is in the effort of fundraising for the two organizations. A short history lesson should allay some of the confusion.

The Dorset Players mission statement says we are a 501c3 non-profit community theater, whose mission is to provide live theater for the purpose of enriching and entertaining our community; and to provide growth and educational opportunities to both children and adults through a variety of theatrical experiences.

In the spring of 1927, Dr. and Mrs. Edward Goodman, created the Dorset Players with a number of Dorset residents in producing a play. Two years layer, the Playhouse was built, through proceeds from plays, a bank loan, and many generous gifts. The Dorset Playhouse was officially opened on July 2, 1929.

Jump to June 1976: John Nassivera and Jill Charles rented the Playhouse for the summer and presented a professional season under the name of Harlequin, Ltd. Now known as the Dorset Theatre Festival, this non-profit Equity Company continues to offer professional summer theater at the Playhouse.

The Dorset Players, the non-professional community theater group thatowns the Playhouse, has developed an active Fall-Winter-Spring season. The Players have expanded far beyond its original nucleus of Dorset residents to all those in the Northshire and beyond, who love theater.

Dorset Theatre Festival's mission is to create bold and innovative theater that engages a diverse, multi-generational community, enlightening, entertaining and inspiring their audience through the celebration of great plays and musicals produced with the highest degree of artistry.

"We are looking for authentic voices in presenting thought-provoking productions drawn from the contemporary and classic canon, striving to redefine the American theatrical landscape through the development of new plays, new audiences and new artists, all working together to produce theater that matters."

In 1999, The Dorset Theatre Festival, with the permission of The Dorset Players, undertook a three million dollar restoration of the historic Dorset Playhouse. In June 2001, the newly restored playhouse opened with improved sight lines, more comfortable seating, more restroom facilities, and a new rehearsal studio.

The three area barns that went into the construction of the original building have been incorporated into the new design. We are very proud of our new facility and look forward to continued productions that the community can enjoy for years to come.     

Over the years, the Playhouse itself has fallen into some disrepair, despite the Players' continual effort to upgrade and repair it with volunteers, donations and grants.

In the last few years, the Players replaced a furnace, and two outside heating units (thanks to a matching grant from the Vermont Arts Council), as well as maintaining the working environment of the building itself.

This year we added a new phone system, had a stage rigging inspection and repairs for the safety of our volunteer workers, re-graded both parking lots and repaired and painted the back outside wall of the playhouse. We have replaced a lighting board, a soundboard, and 40 lighting instruments (thanks to a matching grant from the Vermont Arts Council, again).

We plan to continue to refurbish the other sides of the building as time and money allow. Our next big challenges are the roof and replacing the sills along the foundation.     

We love our theater and love producing shows and workshops. We also spend a lot of time and money just keeping the roof over our heads.

You can help by attending shows, becoming a member or a sponsor both companies, attending our fundraisers and donating to our building fund. Every little bit helps. And thank you to the many volunteers who help us save money by donating their skills. Let us know how you can help.     

In the last five years I have seem almost every production, from both companies. Outstanding acting, directing and set design is the norm. We are quite fortunate to have such high quality theater all year long, year after year.

For further information and/or to get more involved, their respective websites are: dorsetplayers.organd dorsettheatrefesitval.org

Steven Schlussel is a videographer, who currently service on the Board of Directors of The Dorset Players Inc.


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