One of Thomas Dalton Bambury’s goals as a director/producer/actor and jack-of-all-trades in the local theater community is to build an even bigger fan base for American playwright Christopher Durang.
At the 2011 Helderberg Theater Festival, he directed “The Durang Hour,” and in this summer’s event, once again at the Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont, “The Durang Hour” is back by popular demand, according to Bambury.
“I am a huge fan, and it went over so well last year we decided to do it again,” said Bambury, president of the Classic Theater Guild, which for six summers has produced the festival. “Everyone enjoyed the experience last summer, so we thought, ‘why not keep that brand name?’ I want to create a whole new group of Christopher Durang fans.”
Helderberg Theater Festival
WHERE: Indian Ladder Farms, 342 Altamont-Voorheesville Road, Altamont
WHEN: Thursday though Sunday. More performances Aug. 2-5 and Aug. 9-11. Curtain times vary
HOW MUCH: Free
MORE INFO: 256-1656, www.classictheaterguild.com
The festival is free, begins today and will run for three weekends under a tent on the grounds of Indian Ladder Farms. Audience members are urged bring their own chairs or blankets. Along with six performances of “The Durang Hour,” there will be six showings of Shakespeare’s “The Merry Wives of Windsor,” directed by Tony Pallone. Making up the third part of the package are four performances of “Cinderella,” directed by Ed Bablin and done almost exclusively with a young cast.
In last year’s festival, “The Durang Hour” was made up of two one-act plays, “The Actor’s Nightmare” and “Desire, Desire, Desire.” This summer’s offering will consist of 11 one-act plays by Durang, a contemporary American playwright who was educated at Harvard and Yale and lists among his credentials a Pulitzer Prize nomination for his 2006 Broadway play, “Miss Witherspoon.” He has also been nominated for one Tony Award and three Drama Desk Awards.
“One of the plays is literally a one-minute play, but they’re all funny, and they’re all about society, religion and relationships,” said Bambury. “They’re usually pretty irreverent and sometimes sarcastic, but they appeal to a mass audience. It’s not just typical sitcom stuff.”
While there are eight actors taking part in “The Durang Hour,” the festival itself requires the volunteer efforts of more than 100 people, according to Bambury.
“I think we’ve been on a slow and steady build over the past few years,” said Bambury, a graduate of Guilderland High School and Schenectady County Community College. “We’re getting bigger and better every year, and there are so many people involved, probably more than 100 when you include the behind-the-scenes volunteers. We draw a lot of talented people, and we’re always looking for more. Also, we don’t lose any of our volunteers. They keep coming back, which is really great.”
Getting into theater
Bambury became fascinated with the theater in high school when he landed a role in the Guilderland Drama Club’s production of “How to Succeed in Business Without Really Trying.”
“Guilderland had a great program with Fred Heitkamp, and that’s where I really fell in love with theater,” he said. “Then, I had the wonderful tutelage of Grace Burian at SCCC, so I feel like I had some great people teaching me. I loved acting, and then that quickly evolved into directing and producing. It’s been my passion for quite a while, and I expect to keep pretty busy at it.”
While he has performed and acted with other theater companies in the past, he’s going to be sticking close to home this summer and throughout next season, when the Classic Theater Guild begins its 2012-2013 season at Proctors.
“I’ve been involved with theaters around the region for several seasons, but it got to the point where I was sort of looking for a home base,” he said. “Then, this past December, I was elected president of the Classic Theater Guild, so I’m very pleased to be with this group.”
Bambury is also pleased to have seasoned directors working with the Classic Theater Guild.
“We have three completely different presentations, and it’s great to have guys like Tony Pallone and Ed Bablin to work with,” he said. “Ed does a great job with the kids, and ‘Cinderella’ is wonderful family entertainment, the kind that will always be a part of the Helderberg Festival. And Tony has a huge background in Shakespeare. He knows that genre, and he knows that Shakespeare lends itself to interpretation, so we’re doing ‘Merry Wives’ with a bit of a twist this year. It will have the look and feel of the 1970s, but still have the proper groove to please Shakespeare fans.”
Dan Mosher and David Jordan will keep busy performing in “The Durang Hour,” while included in the cast of “Merry Wives” will be Tracy Trimm, Mark Schane-Lydon, Rachel Moore and Matt MacArevy.
Abby Parker and Emily Bablin will share the role of “Cinderella,” while Prince Phillip will be played by Elijah Meaux.