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Home » ARTS AND CULTURE in VT » VERMONT (all topics) » Green Candle Lights up the Stage
A Scene from 'The Nose'
Green Candle Lights up the Stage

Theater Company Profile - Burlington, Vermont

By Mike Dunphy | February 16, 2011

The story begins in a bunker. The furnishings are sparse—not much beyond a chessboard, a worn teddy bear, an old microphone, an antique electrical machine and a card table covered with scraps of newspapers.

The Poster for 'Concrete Kingdom'

On the back wall, there are shelves containing rows of canned carrots and grenades. Moving among them all is a woman, rugged, taut, sweaty, clad in camouflage and carefully cleaning a large Bowie knife. She does not speak, but only listens to a disembodied, recorded voice unfurl a staccato torrent of morsels of paranoia, fear, and schizophrenia.   “I am being watched,” we hear just before she clicks off the machine.   She picks up the microphone and begins to speak.

So goes the opening scene of Concrete Kingdom, the latest production of Burlington, Vermont’s homegrown Green Candle Theatre Company. Written by local playwright Josh Bridgeman, the production is yet another example of the company’s dedication “to the production of original theatre, the continuing sustainability of the creative economy, and the cultural development of our community.”

Green Candle was established in 1993 by four University of Vermont alumni, including the star of Concrete Kingdom, Tracy Girdich, with the mission of producing home-grown plays of a more experimental nature.   Their talent and determination earned enough attention and success that just a year later, they were able to bring a production of Barbara Weichmann’s play Feeding the Moonfish to the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland.   The national paper, the Scotsman, became a fan as well, hailing the show as “theatre at its best.”

Encouraged, they returned the following year with In the Blood by Vermont playwright Keefe Healy, reaping yet more plaudits.   1997 brought three Green Candle productions to New York City including a comedic version of The Prince and the Pauper, adapted by local playwright Marc LaChapelle, which earned kudos from both the New York Times and oddly enough, even Doctor Ruth Westheimer. With plenty of wind in their sails, the company went on to produced over sixty plays by 2000.

A Scene from 'American Buffalo'

The next decade saw Green Candle get more playful and experimental with productions like Silent Invasion—a play off of the ’50’s classic Invasion of the Body Snatchers, Art the Father—described as “Father Knows Best meets Christopher Durang [as] directed by David Lynch,” David Mamet’s American Buffalo, and then there’s Saucy Jack and the Space Vixens, which needs no description.

In 2008, they premiered one of their most inventive (and financially rewarding) shows The Nose.   The adaptation of the nineteenth century short story by Russian novelist Nikolai Gogol introduced a new, off-the-wall technique that director Aaron Masi dubs “hyper-integration.” Seeking to break nearly every convention of theatre from acting, set design, music, lighting (and anything else he could think of), he challenged the actors and production team to work outside and beyond the traditional norms.

“I asked the cast and crew to evolve to a new level of performance, design and artistry.” At times members of the cast became members of the audience and vice versa, set pieces were joined costumes, dialogue was rarely directed at its target, and musicians wandered throughout the theater playing a blend of Russian folk music and original compositions.

The Nose Promotional Artwork

Then there was the nose itself, a character on its own, who after declaring himself an independent citizen, goes in search of a job. Perhaps in less experienced or talented hands, the removal of so many established theater underpinnings could have caused an implosion, but in this case the result was pure delight.

Flush with success and a host of new tools in its belt, the board members of Green Candle took the risky decision last September to forthwith commit themselves exclusively to original material. Considering the limited size of Burlington’s theater community, it’s a flat out ballsy move. So far, there’s no shortage of passion or material.   With at least four pieces slated for production this year, including an original work about Napoleon, Green Candle is an exciting place to be.

All are welcome to join the fun, whether as a member of the audience or taking on roles both on-stage and off, and help Green Candle achieve its goal of becoming the premier theater company in the state.

For further information visit their website.

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