Performing Arts of Woodstock’s The Weir

The cast of The Weir, at the Kingston cemetery where director Warren Kelder’s parents are buried.

The Weir, to be presented by Performing Arts of Woodstock (PAW) from May 30 through June 23 at Woodstock’s Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, takes its title from the word for a small dam constructed to divert the flow of water, symbolizing what happens in the play. Written by Conor McPherson and directed by Warren Kelder, the drama is set in a rural pub in Ireland in the 1990s.

“It’s about the love of place,” said Kelder. “In the 90s, Ireland was under siege by wealth and economic success. McMansions were being built all over the country, and the people were in danger of losing 3000 years of civilization. It takes that long to build a place and a culture, but we can destroy something in 10 years.”

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Kelder has had a long career of acting and directing in New York City, but he was born in Kingston and remembers the old Rondout, which is now radically changed. Other locals will relate to the tragedy suffered by Olive residents when they had to leave the towns flooded to form the Ashokan Reservoir. 

Another connection comes through Kelder’s grandmothers, both born in Ireland, and the Irish musical group he used to sing with. “I relate to the Irish renaissance. You had Yeats, Joyce, Beckett, Wilde, over a period of 30 years. You don’t create a major poet in a vacuum. Major poets come from the soil, and it takes 100 minor poets to create one major poet. Through the storytelling and the culture of the people, that’s how that happens. And it comes from place.”

In the PAW production, Kelder both directs and takes the role of Jack, who visits the pub regularly with his friends Brendan (Joe Bongiorno) and Jim (Wil Anderson). Their childhood friend, Finbar (Chris Gilbert), now a somewhat successful Dublin real estate agent, introduces them to a new member of the community, Valerie (Gloria Mann). He has just sold her a house that is thought by locals to be haunted, although Valerie is unaware of its history. In an evening of storytelling, the characters reveal the losses that haunt them.

Kelder calls the play “a moody piece, with a mystical, mythological feeling in it. You can’t break it up because of the storytelling.” Therefore, it is performed in one act, with no intermission.  

“The play has a lot of talking, with wonderful stories, moving and tender,” he said. “It deals with a sense of loss and what can suffice to heal loss. Always it’s community, a love of place.”

Performing Arts of Woodstock presents The Weir from May 30 through June 23, beginning with a preview performance on Thursday, May 30, at 8 p.m. The remaining shows will be on Fridays: May 31, June 7, 14, 21 at 8 p.m.; Saturdays: June 1, 8, 15, 22 at 8 p.m.; and Sundays: June 2, 9, 16 at 7 p.m.; with one Sunday, June 23, matinee at 1:30 p.m. Shows will be at the Mescal Hornbeck Community Center, 56 Rock City Road, Woodstock. General Admission: $23, Senior/Student $20, PAW Members $15. Tickets are available at https://www.performingartsofwoodstock.org.

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