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Outdoor festival celebrates theater group’s history

Outdoor festival celebrates theater group’s history

The Classic Theater Guild will once again venture into the great outdoors for its seventh annual Hel
Outdoor festival celebrates theater group’s history
Joseph Burton plays Caesar and Kayla O’Connell is Calphurnia in the Classic Theater Guild production of "Julius Caesar," opening Saturday as part of the Helderberg Theater Festival.
Photographer: Emily De Franco

As a longtime director and producer with the Classic Theater Guild, Ed Bablin remembers the days when he was constantly worried about the venue and the weather.

Happily, he no longer has those issues.

“We were a gypsy company for quite a while, and for our free outdoor theater the weather was always a concern,” said Bablin, who along with Amanda Stankavich and Glenn Read started up the Classic Theater Guild 10 years ago. “I’d always look up at the sky and wonder about rehearsal or the show. Well, I don’t have to worry about that anymore. No more canceling shows.”

Helderberg Theater Festival

WHAT: Performances of “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Julius Caesar” by the Classic Theater Guild

WHERE: Indian Ladder Farms, 342 Altamont Road, Altamont

WHEN: Saturday through Sunday, July 28; performance times vary

HOW MUCH: Free

MORE INFO: 424-6579, www.classictheaterguild.com

While it now has a permanent home at the Fenimore Gallery in Proctors in downtown Schenectady, the Classic Theater Guild will once again venture into the great outdoors for its seventh annual Helderberg Theater Festival at Indian Ladder Farms in Altamont. This year, the venue includes a temporary stage under an 80-foot-wide circus tent, ensuring that “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “Julius Caesar” should both go on uninterrupted.

Remembering a friend

The performing space will be referred to as the Chas Treadwell Summer Theater Field, named after a popular member of the local theater community who died earlier this year.

“We’re dedicating the whole festival to Chas Treadwell, who passed away in February,” said Bablin. “He was instrumental in getting the festival off the ground. Indian Ladder Farms has been very welcoming, and they’ve given us permission to use that field as a theater and to name it after Chas, who was really involved in all kinds of community theater in the area.”

As has been the case in past years, a children’s show and a traditional work of Shakespeare will be on the playbill. Karen Christina Jones will direct “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory,” and Rachael Sheffer will be directing “Julius Caesar.” Bablin is producing both shows.

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” is Roald Dahl’s tale of a poor, kind-hearted boy who wins a trip to a magical chocolate factory. Hayden Engert plays Charlie in the CTG production, while also in the cast are Autumn Wafer, Lucy Skrebutenas and Jared Scharf.

Starring in Shakespeare’s tale of the troubles of Julius Caesar are Joseph Bruton as Caesar, Ulisses Gonsalves as Brutus, Mandy Keister as Portia, Joseph Mastroianni as Cassius and Kat Broadus as Marc Anthony.

Jones recently directed the CTG production of “A Soldier’s Story,” which earned a Theatre Association of New York State award, and also played Mrs. Muller in the CTG staging of “Doubt.” Sheffer’s last job for CTG was as director of “Cat on a Hot Tin Roof” in 2009.

“We have two wonderful directors this summer, and we have a good mix of people working for us,” said Bablin. “Some are old faces that we’ve seen before, and we have some new people we haven’t used before. I think it’s great to have that mix. We also have a few college kids from Union College and Schenectady County Community College, so we do have a good mix of young and old, too.”

Humble beginnings

In its early history, the Classic Theater Guild staged shows at the Hilton Center in Albany.

“We started out as a little improv group, with Amanda writing a bunch of short plays, and then we did ‘Inherit the Wind’ and ‘Angels in America,’ ” remembered Bablin. “That’s how we got started. Now we do three or four shows a year, and we moved to Proctors in 2009. We’re down in the Fenimore Gallery, where we can seat around 100 people, so it’s a perfect venue for us.”

Bablin, an Amsterdam native, got his start in theater in his hometown.

“We had an acting group, the Adirondack Players, and I directed ‘A Christmas Carol’ in the basement of a church back in the late 1980s,” said Bablin. “If I could direct ‘Christmas Carol’ every year, I’d be happy the rest of my life.”

While he directed and acted, Bablin became a valued commodity in the theater community because of his work with lights.

“I have no fear of electricity, so I was the lighting director on quite a few shows,” he said. “I minored in theater at UAlbany, so I learned some things there, and then I did some shows with the Spotlight Players and Albany Civic Theater and [Schenectady Light Opera Company]. I was never a great actor, I’ll admit that, but I’ve enjoyed every aspect of community theater and seeing a show go on. It’s really been fun.”

Producing at the community theater level, according to Bablin, is a bit problematic.

“It’s a lot like herding cats,” said Bablin, laughing. “You have to keep track of a lot of things and make sure they all come together and that everything runs on time. It can be quite a challenge, but we’ve gotten better over the years. It’s a challenge I enjoy.”

While the performances at Indian Ladder Farms are free, the guild will put on a performance at Proctors on Aug. 3 as a fundraiser. Tickets are $17.50.

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