Playhouse gets zoning board OK; Duke leaves WPTC

By Cynthia Prairie

The Weston Zoning Board of Adjustment has granted the Weston Playhouse Theatre Company a conditional use permit to build a new theater complete with parking spaces, driveway and landscaping on the 5-acre Walker Farm property at the corner of Route 100 and Chester Mountain Road in Weston.

ON THE COVER: Architect Jim Pulver discusses the plans before the joint Weston Zoning Board of Adjustment and Planning Commission meeting in August.

“We are pleased to have the ZBA approval for our plans for the Walker Farm in Weston, and we are moving forward with our fundraising for this exciting project,” wrote producing director Steve Stettler in response to an email query.

The rear of the Walker Farm, where the new theater is to be built.

The rear of the Walker Farm, where the new theater is to be built.

Plans are for a 2,900-square-foot “open plan” stage to be built behind the existing Walker Farm house, barns and silos, further masked from street view by a berm created in a rolling field between 703 Main – the playhouse’s administrative offices and costume shop — and the farm buildings. The new theater will supplement not supplant the Main Stage on the Green, allowing the theater to operate year-round.

The new stage would accommodate up to 140 patrons and be surrounded by 69 parking spaces — three of them concrete and handicapped-designated. Fourteen more parking spaces would be created at 703 Main, connected to the new facility with the mowed walking path.

The new theater would also include a lobby and rest rooms as well as dressing rooms, a green room, laundry, storage and workspace backstage. The entire building would have sprinklers, fed by a 26,000-gallon tank.

The ZBA decision was issued on Sept. 26 following a hearing in August, held jointly with the Weston Planning Commission, which is reviewing the playhouse’s site plan for the project. Playhouse management has yet to hear back from the Planning Commission.

The board found that the project would not cause any undue impact on existing public facilities such as fire safety, roads, water and schools.

The ZBA did put nine conditions on the project, most of them minor. It did request that the existing farm buildings, which consist of a home, two barns — one from the 1860s that is attached to the home — and two silos “remain standing and intact and in use. Abandonment, removal or change of use … shall constitute a significant change” requiring an amendment to the permit if any is to be removed. Stettler wrote that  the playhouse has “no current plans for the 1860s barn and will work closely with the board whenever future needs are identified.”

Other conditions include: Residents of the home will be required to park in the front of the home, as has historically been done, and not in the rear, where parking is designated for the theater; and any planting that dies will have to be replaced by one as tall as the original and no outdoor music will be played after 11 p.m.

Duke leaves WPTC after 17 years

Stuart Duke, who was with the Weston Playhouse for 17 years, has left his position as managing director effective last week.

Stuart Duke

Stuart Duke

Duke said Tuesday, Oct. 1, that the playhouse organization is “shifting and growing” and needs new energy and ideas. He added that he wishes the company “nothing but the best.”

As managing director, Duke oversaw the internal departments of this very public regional theater company, including sales and marketing, finances and human resources, among others.

Duke, who lives in Weston, added that he has missed teaching over the years – he taught lighting design at Oberlin College – and would like to find a way back into that field. But, he added, he’d like to continue to live in the area. Duke started his career at the playhouse as general manager.

“We are sorry to see Stuart move on,” said producing director Steve Stettler in an email. “But we are grateful for his many years of service, and he will always be a special member of the Weston Theatre family.”

Duke continued to do lighting design work at the playhouse, including Fiddler on the Roof, St. Ex and Death of a Salesman.  Other credits include Sweeney Todd, Singin’ in the Rain and Funny Girl at the North Shore Music Theatre in Massachusetts. Zoominfo.com says that Duke’s 20 career before Weston included lighting design with more than 200 Broadway, off Broadway, regional and international credits.

It is not known if his former position will be filled.

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About the Author: Cynthia Prairie has been a newspaper editor more than 30 years. She has worked at such publications as the Raleigh Times, the Baltimore News American, the Buffalo Courier Express, the Chicago Sun-Times and the Patuxent Publishing chain of community newspapers in Maryland. She and her family moved to Chester, Vermont in 2004.

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