'Analog and Vinyl' launches at Weston

Sarah Stiles and Preston Sadleir appear in 'Analog and Vinyl' at Weston Playhouse.

WESTON -- New plays can take years to develop from the writer's imagination to the moment the first curtain lifts on the work.

Weston Playhouse marks a growing committment to developing new work -- and a new incubator of theater arts -- with their world premiere musical, Paul Gordon's "Analog and Vinyl," directed by Michael Bessere.

"Analog and Vinyl" is Weston Playhouse's fifth world premiere. Set in a vintage record store, this musical comedy follows struggling storeowner Harrison and his eccentric co-worker, Rodeo Girl. Then an enigmatic customer makes them an offer they can't refuse.

Director Michael Bessere said that the play celebrates the great joy and nostalgia that accompanies vinyl music, both through its story and its character-driven, diverse and tuneful score.

"It is not merely about the power and mystery of LPs or even the differences between analog and digital media," Bessere said. "It is a very human-scaled story about the ways in which we struggle to connect in this fast-paced, media driven world. It is a quirky, comic fable about the temptation to rewrite the life we have and the danger of concealing the truth of who we know ourselves to be."

"Both Paul Gordon and Michael Bessere are established Broadway names, and bringing them together here at Weston for ‘Analog and Vinyl' seems like a natural fit given our direction in new play development," said Steve Stettler, Weston's producing director. "We want to encourage such endeavors ... to help such works and their artists thrive."

Weston has begun to focus intensely on new plays, Stettler said, and their interest will grow in the coming years.

A recent initiative, "Our Campaign for the Weston Theatre," will help create the Incubator for the Theatre Arts in Weston. Playwrights, directors, composers and librettists will come to work on their new works in the quiet rural environment of the Green Mountains, away from the distractions of urban life.

"The plan involves raising $10 million, and we are half way there," Stettler said. "There are a number of components to this. First is making improvements to the playhouse. We have also acquired five acres, Walker Farm, where we will build a studio theatre aimed at incubating new plays. Then we'll establish a fund to attract nationwide artists to the incubator. On completion, there will be a campus walkable from the village with housing, office, rehearsal and performance space. Our goal is to develop new plays and musicals there."

"Analog and Vinyl," Stettler said. is exactly the type of work Weston Playhouse wants to develop on site in the future.

Sarah Stiles, who plays Rodeo girl and has worked with the project since its inception in 2009, knows who she is and what it took to get "Analog and Vinyl" on stage. She said her friendship with Gordon helped her stay with the project these past five years.

"My lines have changed a lot throughout this process, but that spark that Paul created and drew me to Rodeo Girl has never gone away," Stiles said. "We dream as actors to find those perfect roles, that fit us so completely, that make us skip to the theatre ‘cause we can't wait to get on stage, and those that make us sob when we take our final bow and have to leave them behind. Rodeo Girl is that for me."

Playwright and composer Gordon said he'd never been to Weston Playhouse and didn't have any preconceived ideas about what it might be like to develop the work there.

"I was very impressed with Steve Stettler's passion for the piece, and I was intrigued at the prospect of doing a production here," Gordon said. "I couldn't believe how beautiful it was the town, the theatre and its people. This was the perfect setting to develop a new work. I almost think of Weston as an artist's retreat. My backyard is a river. We walk to rehearsal. Everywhere is luscious beauty. It's the kind of environment that incites creativity."

"Analog and Vinyl" addresses contemporary issues while drawing artistic inspiration from past hits, Stettler said.

"This play brought three things to the table," he said. "We knew people would connect with the sensual combustibility of ‘Kiss Me Kate' or the late-1980s ‘Moonlighting' TV series. It has the comic element and mysterious stranger of ‘Damn Yankees.' And the tuneful retro pop/rock music of ‘Grease' or ‘Hairspray' presents itself in new songs but evoking another era. The combination of all three is a winner for our audiences."

If you go ...

What: 'Analog and Vinyl'

When: Through July 12 --

7:30 p.m. Tuesday to Saturday, 2 p.m. Wednesday and Saturday, and 3 p.m. Sunday

Were: Weston Playhouse,

703 Main St., Weston

Information: (802) 824-5288, westonplayhouse.org