Arts, Dining & Entertainment

Dorset Theatre Festival announces the return to the playhouse, 2022 Main Stage Summer Season

Tickets go on sale April 15

The Dorset Theatre Festival recently announced its return to indoor performances at the Dorset Playhouse beginning June, 23 2022, and the 45th Main Stage Summer Season featuring Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of “Wait Until Dark” (June 23-July 9); the world premiere of “Scarecrow” written and performed by Heidi Armbruster (July 14-23); “Back Together Again,” a new concert featuring the music of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway (July 27-Aug. 7); and the world premiere of “Thirst” by Ronán Noone (Aug. 18-Sept. 3). All performances will take place indoors at the Dorset Playhouse (104 Cheney Road, in Dorset). 

“We are so excited to see old friends in our beautiful Playhouse and welcome new friends into our community. Our theme this summer truly is ‘back together again’ — for joy, for laughter, and for community,” said Dina Janis, artistic director of Dorset Theatre Festival.  

This summer will be the Festival’s first in the Dorset Playhouse since 2019, after having canceled the 2020 season and performing an outdoor season at the Southern Vermont Arts Center in 2021. 

“It’s good to be back, and we are working hard to bring our artists and audience home safely,” said Will Rucker, Dorset’s producing director. In planning for the return indoors, the festival will be monitoring guidelines for indoor performances and working with the artists’ unions to update safety protocols for staff and patrons as June approaches.

‘Wait Until Dark,’ July 14-23

The season will open with a regional revival of “Wait Until Dark,” Jeffrey Hatcher’s adaptation of Frederick Knott’s classic thriller that inspired the 1967 Academy Award-nominated film starring Audrey Hepburn.

“’Wait Until Dark’ celebrates the festival’s tradition of producing mystery thrillers that appeal to the entire family. This play is sure to please folks who love suspense and have been loyal fans of our Sherlock and Agatha Christie fare over these many decades,” said Dina Janis. 

Inside the quaint 1944 Greenwich Village basement apartment of Susan and Sam Hendrix, murder, secret identities, and a switchblade set the stage for this white-knuckle thriller that will have audiences sleeping with the lights on. While Susan’s husband is away on business, a woman is murdered and a mystery begins to unravel, leaving Susan tangled up with a ruthless con man. As the climax builds, a battle of wits ensues and light becomes dark as the tables are turned in a deadly game of cat and mouse — all leading to this classic thriller’s chilling conclusion.

Jackson Gay returns to Dorset to direct after helming the festival’s acclaimed 2019 production of “Slow Food” that reunited actors Dan Butler and Peri Gilpin, both alums of the hit TV comedy, “Frasier.”

“I am thrilled to be returning to Dorset Theatre Festival, where I get to make great work with wonderful people in one of the most beautiful settings in the world,” said Jackson Gay, the director of “Wait Until Dark.” “I loved hearing the audience’s laughter while watching ‘Slow Food,’ and now I get to make people jump in their seats as they experience the thrillingly heart-thumping ‘Wait Until Dark,’” Gay said.

‘Scarecrow,’ July 14-23

The season will continue with the World premiere of the one-women tour-de-force, “Scarecrow,” written and performed by Heidi Armbruster, and directed by the Dina Janis.  

Will the bulls chase her off the property or will she garden herself into oblivion? “Scarecrow” is one woman’s heartwarming and funny look back at the last 33 days of her father’s life. A New York City actress lands herself on her family’s dairy farm to try to grieve herself back to life. But can she ever make enough meatloaf to feel a sense of purpose again now that her most important person is gone? A hilarious and touching journey of rollercoasters, kittens, and many, many cows, “Scarecrow” offers a look at loss and survival, resilience and renewal, and Hallmark movies.

Heidi Armbruster is a New York City-based theatre artist. Her other plays, including “Dairyland,” “Murder Girl,” “The Murder of Roger Ackroyd,” “Where the I Divides,” and “Purgatory,” have been produced and developed at prestigious theatres across the country. As an actress, Heidi has extensive New York and regional theatre credits, including “Time Stands Still” on Broadway and Lincoln Center’s production of the Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Disgraced.” Heidi was awarded a Drama League Nomination for her work in the Keen Company’s revival of “Tea and Sympathy” and has many TV and film credits including Manifest, Younger, Pose, Dead Ringers, and the upcoming Partner Track. 

Armbruster wrote the Festival’s 2019 hit world premiere, “Mrs. Christie,” and will return to Dorset to perform the mostly-autobiographical “Scarecrow,” which she began developing during the pandemic in the festival’s Women Artists Writing Group. 

“The heart of the piece is really about a relationship with the farm landscape that my father devoted his life to that comes to represent resilience and self-reliance for the woman at the center of the play,” said Heidi Armbruster, “Scarecrow” playwright and performer. “I hope audiences will connect with the idea of finding a surprisingly vital experience of life through the process of grieving,” Armbruster said.

‘Back Together Again,’ July 27-Aug. 7

Next on the 2022 Main Stage will be “Back Together Again: The Music of Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway,” a new concert featuring Christina Acosta Robinson and Ken Robinson, developed in collaboration with Merrimack Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Massachusetts. 

Friends since their college days, Roberta Flack and Donny Hathaway soared to the top of the Billboard charts as one of the most cherished and mellifluous duos in music history, recording some of the most adored duets of all time like, “Where Is The Love” and “The Closer I Get To You.” Now, Broadway performers, and husband-and-wife, Christina Acosta Robinson and Ken Robinson, bring the love together again for a concert of the pair’s iconic hits. 

Christina Acosta Robinson (The Donna Summer Musical) and Ken Robinson (“Memphis,” “Baby It’s You!”) fell in love as students at the Yale School of Drama where they performed together at the Yale Cabaret, and have both gone on to appear on Broadway, off-Broadway, and acclaimed regional theaters across the country.

“The joy and heart in the music itself can heal and inspire, while also celebrating the history and impact of these important artists,” said Dina Janis.

‘Thirst,’ Aug. 18-Sept. 3

The season will conclude with the World premiere of the witty Irish drama “Thirst,” written by Ronán Noone and directed by renowned playwright Theresa Rebeck. Set during Eugene O’Neill’s classic “Long Day’s Journey Into Night,” failure, denial, and passion roil as two Irish servants and an American chauffeur pass the day in the kitchen of the Tyrone family’s residence in 1912. As tensions rise and the past rears its head, a search for love and belonging becomes the search for “home.”

“’Thirst’ made me laugh and cry when I first read it.  The characters are so passionate, filled with longing and humor in that great classic Irish fashion — witty and lyrical. I knew at once it was a play that belonged on our stage,” said Dina Janis.

Ronán Noone is an award-winning playwright whose recent international productions have taken place in the UK (London and Edinburgh), Spain, Canada, the Philippines, and Ireland. Noone’s play “The Atheist” was produced at the Huntington Theatre Company and the Williamstown Theatre Festival. It was also co-produced by The Culture Project and Ted Mann’s Circle in the Square productions in New York, and received both Drama Desk and Drama League acting nominations. His full-length and one-act plays are published by Samuel French, Smith and Kraus, Bakers Plays, and Dramatists Play Service.

Two-time Emmy-nominated writer Theresa Rebeck returns to Dorset on the heels of co-writing the spy ensemble thriller, “The 355,” which recently hit theaters via Universal. Rebeck’s fourth Broadway play, “Bernhardt/Hamlet,” premiered as part of the Roundabout Theatre Company’s 2018-19 season, making her the most Broadway-produced female playwright of our time, and she recently won an Outer Critics Circle Award for her play “Seared.” As the festival’s resident playwright, Rebeck has developed more than seven productions at Dorset Theatre Festival that have gone on to other stages around the country, including 2017’s “Downstairs” starring Tim and Tyne Daly, which ran off-Broadway at Primary Stages in fall 2018. This season, she returns to Dorset after directing the Festival’s 2019 award-winning World premiere of her play, “Dig.”

“I am thrilled to be directing this magnificent play at the Dorset Theatre Festival this summer by an extraordinary Irish-American writer, Ronán Noone,” said Theresa Rebeck, director. “It is beautiful, funny, heartbreaking. Unmissable,” Rebeck said.

About the playhouse

The festival’s summer home at the Dorset Playhouse is an intimate 298-seat theatre built from two pre-revolutionary barns. The Playhouse has been owned and operated by the community group, The Dorset Players, Inc., since 1929, and became host to the professional Equity Summer Festival, now Dorset Theatre Festival, in 1977.

Since 2010, Dorset Theatre Festival has become a national incubator for new play development, known for highlighting new plays amidst regional premieres, and invigorating interpretations of classic works, as well as a commitment to acclaimed new play development programs nurturing new voices and new audiences for the American Theatre. 

Dorset Theatre Festival’s mission is to create bold, innovative, and authentic theatre that engages a diverse, multi-generational community, and economically broad region: enlightening, entertaining, and inspiring our audience through the celebration of great plays. To produce theatre that matters.

For more information visit: Tickets will be available on April 15.

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