When Eda Crist and Edie LeFever established the Performing Arts of Woodstock (PAW) theater organization in 1964, they probably never imagined that it would still be going strong in 2014, about to open its 50th season with Eugene O’Neill’s A Moon for the Misbegotten. The original intention of its founders was to establish theater programs for youth.
“At the time, there was no theater company in Woodstock, nor were there opportunities for young people in theater,” says Adele Calcavecchio, vice president on the organization’s board. “So when it was founded, the idea was to have classes and plays that children could participate in.”
Today, Performing Arts of Woodstock is the oldest continuously operating theater organization in Woodstock, and LeFever is still at the helm of the nonprofit group as its president (Crist has since passed away). No longer focusing on children’s plays, the organization now produces three new or classic plays each year for adults of “challenging, thoughtful and, we hope, entertaining” material, says Calcavecchio. “They’re all very well-written.” Previous productions include Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Hedda Gabler, Twelfth Night, Breaking the Code and Endgame (a complete list of 49 years of productions is on the website).
A Moon for the Misbegotten is a sequel of sorts to O’Neill’s earlier Long Day’s Journey into Night, and as with the earlier play, the self-destructive Jim Tyrone character is based on O’Neill’s alcoholic older brother Jamie. Set in and around a broken-down Connecticut farmhouse in 1923, A Moon for the Misbegotten chronicles the intertwined stories of the tortured Tyrone, the earthy Irishwoman Josie Hogan and Josie’s difficult father Phil.
PAW’s production of Moon is directed by Nicola Sheara, and features Kimberly Kay as Josie, Richard Scofield as Phil, Justin Lazard as Jim and Robert Sheridan as T. Stedman Harder, a landowner who figures into the story as well. Performing Arts of Woodstock doesn’t have a core repertory company of actors, says Calcavecchio, instead holding auditions and putting the word out with people with whom it has worked before.
After 45 years of holding performances in Woodstock’s Town Hall, recent renovations and changes there have caused PAW to move to other venues. Performances of Moon will be in the hall of St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church (“the A-frame church”) in Woodstock on three consecutive weekends: Fridays, February 7, 14 and 21; Saturdays, February 8, 15 and 22; and Sundays, February 9, 16 and 23. Evening performances on Fridays and Saturdays begin at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday matinees at 2 p.m.
Open-seating tickets cost $20 for adults, $15 for seniors and students. For reservations, call (845) 679-7900. Seating is limited at the church, so early reservations are advised. Payment is by check or cash only; pick up tickets at the door.
The season will continue in March with Oscar Wilde’s classic comedy The Importance of Being Earnest, followed by Clybourne Park, a Pulitzer Prizewinning play (2010) inspired by A Raisin in the Sun. Those two productions will be held at the Community Center in Woodstock.
Performing Arts of Woodstock will host a gala celebration of its 50th season on July 27 at the Onteora Mountain House. The event will feature music, food and theater – probably scenes from former plays, says Calcavecchio. “It’s open to all. We hope many people will come and cheer us on.”
Performing Arts of Woodstock’s A Moon for the Misbegotten, Friday/Saturday, February 7-8, 14-15, 21-22, 7:30 p.m., Sundays, February 9, 16, 23, 2 p.m., $20/$15, cash/check only, St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church, 2575 Route 212, Woodstock; (845) 679-7900, www.performingartsofwoodstock.org.