Playhouse’s Walker Farm arts center just months from opening

The barn and silos of the Walker Farm overlook the rising Arts Center on the right. All photos by Tuckerman Wunderle.

By Tuckerman Wunderle
©2017 Telegraph Publishing LLC

On Saturday, Sept. 23, 2017, the Weston Playhouse Theater Company’s Center for the Arts at Walker Farm will open its doors to a new era of possibilities for the Vermont theater community.

The WPTC broke ground in August of 2016, but the vision of expansion has been in the works for almost 20 years. “The whole idea for the space was to provide a complement for the Weston Playhouse,” said Producing Artistic Director Steve Stettler in a recent interview.

Although the Playhouse is an iconic building, with its tall white columns overlooking the Weston Green, the theater company wanted a more intimate space for plays requiring a closer actor-audience interaction to replace the very tight space and limited seating at the Weston Rod & Gun Club.  The Rod & Gun Club has been home to the Playhouse’s OtherStages programming, which includes plays and musicals on a smaller scale for children and adults.

Closeup of the work in progress on a recent rainy spring day.

Weston began the planning stage for the space 10 years ago, aiming to expand the range of plays they could perform. Since then, the vision for the project has expanded considerably. The project price tag of $13.5 million includes operating costs.

“They’re doing a great job of trying to anticipate not just how we want to use it, but how other people would use it and what uses might come up in future that we can plan for now,” Stettler said. This includes leaving additional room for infrastructure in case of future improvements in hard-wiring or plumbing.

The versatility of the 2,700-square-foot space will be its biggest asset to the theater company, allowing it to effectively expand its performance season from more than three months to months, adding a festival of new plays in May and a fall foliage festival in October.

The main room in the Center for the Arts.

However, Weston is not looking to do theater performances year-round. “The other six months will focus of incubation of new work, as well as working with local organizations to set up lectures, classes, films and workshops,” said Stettler. “It enables us to expand what we do, but also allows us to make a contribution back to the community.”

Weston plans to set up a network of area partnerships to utilize the facility, and the possibilities seem next to endless. The new Walker Farm building features a large central performance space, which can be quickly and efficiently converted from a 150-seat theater into a ballroom, a concert hall or even into a television studio.

This allows the theater to meet a wide range of needs, without needing a staff on hand 24/7. Instead of the Playhouse employing a large group of people to run the Walker Farm through the winter months, the company will rely on those area partnerships to provide additional technical support when needed.

The lobby.

Catering for events will also be structured around a web of community partnerships. “Because we want the facility to be as active and useful and revenue-producing as possible, we’ll try to have a list of resources available to make it attractive, but we’re not looking to be exclusive about that,” Stettler said.

This will create a number of close partnerships between Weston and other local businesses, but still allow for flexibility to best suit each event’s needs.

The Walker Farm will open in September with “a series of events in late September and October to celebrate,” Stettler said in November 2016.

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  1. Lew Watters says:

    Sounds like a great plan. What would we do without the Weston Playhouse Theatre Co?

    Lew and Bonnie Watters

  2. So exciting for everyone !