Oldcastle season opens with revolutionary new play

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BENNINGTON — "The Almost True and Truly Remarkable Adventures of Israel Potter," a new play based on a true story and a Herman Melville novel, opens Oldcastle Theatre's 47th season on Friday, June 15.

Adapted by Joe Bravaco and Larry Rosler, this ensemble piece for six actors tells the story of young Israel Potter, who is farming in the Berkshires when a shot rings out beginning the American Revolution. Israel leaves Betty, his true love, to fight the by fortifying Bunker Hill against 3,000 British soldiers.

The play is described as "pageantry, cheap jokes, fierce battles on land and sea, heart-pounding espionage, slugfests, blustering heroes, star-crossed lovers, conniving rogues and tempting trollops and an entertainment with songs!" Israel becomes a spy in England, works for King George III, Benjamin Franklin, George Washington, John Paul Jones and Ethan Allen.

"The play is a fun-filled, song-filled history lesson that will entertain audiences from 9 to 90," according to Oldcastle's Producing Artistic Director, Eric Peterson. "I fell in love with the play on page one. We search for plays with local and regional interest and this play, which is set, in part, in the Berkshires has Ethan Allen as a character will appeal, not only to local history buffs but to anyone with a sense of humor and adventure."

The play is directed by Nathan Stith, who two years ago directed "39 Steps" for Oldcastle and last season acted in "Moonlight and Magnolilas" with the company. He has appeared on stage with the great Placido Domingo in "Cyrano de Bergerac" at the New York Metropolitan Opera, spent years on the Broadway National Tour of "Jesus Christ Superstar" and played the recurring role of Bobby on TV's "One Life to Live."

He has acted with the Colorado Shakespeare Festival and first acted with Oldcastle more than 20 years ago. Stith met his wife, Sarah, a native of Bennington, while he was acting and she was stage managing an Oldcastle production. They now have two children and live in Texas, where Nathan teaches at Trinity University.

The cast includes three longtime Oldcastle company members, Associate Artistic Director Richard Howe, co-founding member Gary Allan Poe, and Christine Decker, who has been with the company since 1973, and three newcomers, Josh Aaron McCabe, Robert St. Laurence and Anne Undeland.

Howe has acted in an extraordinary 200 plays with Oldcastle. He is particularly adept at playing numerous roles in a play and in "Israel Potter" he creates more than 12 characters. Decker acts and directs with Oldcastle while serving as the company's director of education. Poe both acts and stage manages with Oldcastle. He performed in the company's first production, "The Hollow Crown," in 1972. Howe, Decker, and Poe last appeared on the Oldcastle stage together in the musical "Big River" in 2016.

McCabe has acted with Shakespeare and Company in Lenox since 2006. His more than 20 roles with the company include Stephano and Alonso in last season's "The Tempest," Sir Nathaniel in "Love's Labours Lost," and Sherlock Holmes in "Hound of the Baskervilles." His television appearances include "Saturday Night Live," "All My Children" and "The Guiding Light." McCabe has made numerous appearance off-Broadway and in such regional theatres as Madison Rep, Renaissance Theatre, Connecticut Rep, Tanglewood and the Ensemble Theatre of Cincinnati. He teaches Shakespeare at Wright University in Dayton, Ohio.

St. Laurence comes to Oldcastle after acting with several New England theatres including American Repertory Theater, Huntington Theatre Company, Stoneham, and Company One.

He earned his M.F.A. at Harvard, did improv with the famed Second City in Chicago. His film work includes "The Perfect Match," filmed in Germany.

Undeland joins Oldcastle for the first time. She has acted with Joan Ackermann's Mixed Company, the Metropolitan Playhouse in New York, and Castle Hill Theatre. She is also a playwright, a puppeteer and creates and performs living history programs for museums.

McCarty returns for her fourth season as Oldcastle's resident costume designer. She has shown and published her artwork nationally and internationally. Her costuming credits include Cornell College and Riverside Theatre of Iowa, the Baton Rouge Little Theatre and Georgia College.

The set design is by Roy Hamlin, who designed last season's production of "Mauritius." In previous seasons he co-designed costumes with McCarty for such Oldcastle productions as "Big River" and "The Consul, the Tramp and America's Sweetheart." He served as associate artistic director of Houston's Theatre Under the Stars, and worked with Disney Theatricals. He has taught theatre abroad in London, Stratford, and Costa Rica.

The lighting design is by Oldcastle's Resident Technical Director David V. Groupe, who has worked with the company for 30 years. The sound design is by Cory Wheat, the theater's resident sound and visual director.

The production runs through June 24. There is an added performance this season on Sunday evenings at 7:30. For additional information or reservations call 802-447-0564 or visit the theatre's website:www.oldcastletheatre.org.

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