The first thing Eric Peterson, producing artistic director at Oldcastle Theatre, does when he arrives at 331 Main Street each morning is not call actors or read scripts or negotiate for royalties.
Peterson checks on and empties seven buckets that have collected water overnight. These buckets, fortunately, are behind the scenery when Oldcastle presents its plays, but the roof—patched many times—represents a major threat to the building.
The Oldcastle organization, now called Bennington Performing Arts Center—The Home of Oldcastle Theatre, is launching a public campaign to raise $100,000 for a new roof with insulation. The $100,000 goal is the second stage of a $350,000 campaign that includes the purchase of Oldcastle’s home for much of the past decade.
A group of donors contributed $250,000 to acquire the building as part of the Bennington Redevelopment Group transaction in June.
But the roof needs to be replaced. A new roof will include solid insulation between the roof deck and the top membrane. The 1948 building had no roof insulation. The savings from insulation could be more than $6,000 a year on heating and air conditioning.
Oldcastle began work on the 300 block of Main Street seven years before the Putnam Redevelopment Group began to plan its efforts to renovate the historic downtown Putnam Hotel, Old Court House and Winslow buildings.
In a recent Vermont Public Radio report, Bill Colvin, assistant director of the Bennington County Regional Commission said: “Obviously the redevelopment group sees Oldcastle Theatre, and the performing arts, as a critical component of the revitalization of downtown Bennington.” Colvin added. “We think it does nothing but add to and enhance all of the other redevelopment efforts that are taking place on the block and really throughout the town.”
Oldcastle left the now-closed Laumeister Arts Center in 2011 and with support from local donors and businesses renovated the former Knights of Columbus building owned by the Norman Greenberg family.
Since moving into the building, professional theatre productions, community theater, cabarets, concerts, lectures, civic meetings, holiday events and student performances have drawn local residents, students, as well as theatre-lovers from the Berkshires and eastern New York State.
In renaming the organization Bennington Performing Arts Center—The Home of Oldcastle Theatre, the volunteer board and professional staff want to emphasize the broader agenda for the performing arts in Bennington. In addition to its professional theatre company—now in its 48th season—the mission of BPAC calls for greater involvement by local residents in community theater productions, concerts, and educational activities for adults and children.
In recent months the performing arts center has hosted Phillip Glass, the Bennington County Choral Society, Saakumu West African Dance Troupe, Career Development Center students, cabaret performances involving Matt Edwards, Literary Teas with Lea Newman on Emily Dickinson and Robert Frost, films, an adult acting class, a six-part series on the family in American drama, and community meetings
A major push for contributions will be made during the run of Brighton Beach Memoirs, the Neil Simon comedy opening on Friday, July 12.
People interested in learning more may call Eric Peterson at 447-1267
. The Bennington Performing Arts Center—The Home of Oldcastle Theatre is a not-for-profit organization and all gifts are deductible to the extent allowed by law.