Fairytale Theater coming to Woodstock

Kerry Henderson and Bex Roper-Caldbeck.

Woodstock area children and teens will get a chance to put on a musical play this summer, as Edie’s Fairytale Theater come to the Byrdcliffe Barn from June 24 to 28 to mount a production of their original adaptation of Peter Pan, for kids aged five to 16. The St. Louis-based company will be brought to town by Kerry Henderson and Bex Roper-Caldbeck, organizers of the Woodstock Festival of Song, which will hold two concerts at St. Gregory’s Episcopal Church on Mother’s Day weekend, May 11 and 12.

“My husband and I have run theater companies since graduating from the Drama Studio in London,” said Edie Avioli, artistic director of the theater company. “That’s where we met Bex, who’s doing the festival of song. We decided to do a musical adventure in the woods of Woodstock, and we thought of Peter Pan because J. M. Barrie, who wrote it, is from where Bex is from, Dumfries in Scotland.”

Over the last 25 years, Edie has written 20 musical adaptations of fairytales, all of them “highlighting good character and cooperation. Goldilocks is about respect. The Emperor’s New Clothes is about compassion. They’re simple lessons for kids, presented in a fun, engaging manner. We tour the shows around the country. Lately, we’ve been holding workshops for creating children’s theater, awakening creativity and imaginative play, teaching the craft of good storytelling.”

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Edie, her husband, Scott Sears, and their four children are all professionals who will be on hand to help with the show. Christopher Sears is a musician, composer, actor, and leader of a band that will appear with the summer camp as the Neverland Band, with his sister Sienna as vocalist. Sienna, also a dancer, will bring choreography and music to the camp.

“Christopher has his first album out,” said Edie, “with fun storytelling and great harmonies. He has his finger on the pulse of the kids’ energy.” Sophia Sears, company member and graphic artist, is a recent graduate from University of Missouri Early Childhood Program, with an emphasis on multicultural education. Charlie Sears, a musician/songwriter studying engineering at University of Denver, will be the musical engineer for the summer production.

The camp will be held at the historic Byrdcliffe Barn, near the western end of Upper Byrdcliffe Road, two miles from the center of Woodstock. The spacious barn has a low stage in the middle and plenty of room for kids to run around, with the woods just outside.

Kerry Henderson, an operatic baritone, and his wife, musician and actress Bex Roper-Caldbeck, started the Woodstock Festival of Song last year with the intention of presenting original work in all genres. “I even came out of the closet last year and did a few of my own songs,” said Bex. “We’re creating something fun, light, bright, and breezy. We wanted to include our daughter, Rosa, and incredibly talented friends of ours including Christopher Sears,” whose show they had seen in New York City. 

Kerry was a co-founder of what started as the Phoenicia Festival of the Voice, a multi-stage event that will mount its tenth annual incarnation this August. After leaving the Phoenicia team, he organized the Kingston Festival of the Arts and now has landed in Woodstock, where he’s pleased to be scaling down his efforts. “The point is not to turn into something huge,” said Bex, “where we have to worry about funding big production numbers. It’s sweet and beautiful and intimate, which is how we want to keep it.”

St. Gregory’s, the A-frame church just east of town on Route 212, is a handsome venue with superb acoustics. The church hosted the festival’s variety show last year and will again be the setting for two concerts. On Saturday, May 11, at 7:30 p.m., “Songs for Peace” will be dedicated to the victims of mass shootings, including last year’s gun violence at a mosque in Kerry’s hometown of Christchurch, New Zealand. Kerry is joined by sopranos Kimberly Kahan and Jessica Crandall, pianists/composers Daniel Wilson and Ellen Mandel, singer/songwriter Christopher Sears, and 15-year-old songstress Rosa Henderson. Rolling Stone founding editor Michael Lydon will present his original songs. 

At the Sunday, May 12, Mother’s Day concert, “I So Liked Spring,” at 3 p.m., Jessica Crandall sings Ellen Mandel’s song settings of poems by E.E. Cummings, Seamus Heaney, W.B. Yeats, and others. Michael Lydon will perform his own jazz-pop songs. Before the concert, at 2:30 p.m., the public is invited to the garden behind the church for songs and stories celebrating Mother Earth, with Gloria Waslyn and the Parrots for Peace, Edie Avioli of Edie’s Fairytale Theater, and singer/songwriter Sylvia Bullett.

Tickets for each concert are available at the door or online, with a $10 suggested donation. St. Gregory’s is located at 2578 Route 212, Woodstock.

Edie’s Fairytale Theater presents Peter Pan and the Neverland Band in a one-week camp for kids aged 5 to 16 at the Byrdcliffe Barn, June 24-28, 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. The cost is $425 per person, with sibling discounts available. Aftercare until 6 p.m. will be provided for an additional $75 per person. Register at https://ediesfairytaletheatre.com/woodstock-2019. 

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