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Color Bind

State of the Arts


Published May 11, 2005 at 4:00 p.m.

When it comes to Athol Fugard's powerfully sociopolitical plays, color is relevant. This summer Bill Blachly, director of Unadilla Theatre, plans to stage two of the South African playwright's works, Master Harold... and the Boys and The Island. Both, set in apartheid times, "have to do with the abuse of authority," says Blachly. "I thought it would be good to do them at this time for some reason."

Problem is, he's having trouble finding any black actors. "They would be African-American, preferably," Blachly says. Of course, ideally they'd be South African, but... this is Vermont.

Candidates also must have some acting experience and be 25 to 40 years old, and male. An ad in Backstage magazine has generated resumés from half a dozen New York actors, but no one has signed on yet. Anyway, Blachly says he'd love to find someone local. Equity and non-Equity actors are welcome, and the pay, he says, is "Boston Equity scale for small theaters."

The 22-year-old Unadilla typically presents six plays in repertoire throughout the summer. Actors from "away" can stay in an apartment at the former farm -- an isolated, pastoral oasis deep in the East Calais woods. For actors escaping the city heat, performing at Unadilla has always meant a working vacation. The 2005 season starts on June 29, with the Fugard plays launching July 2.

Other productions this year:

This Is Our Youth, by New York playwright and screenwriter Kenneth Lonergan, which follows several days in the lives of three white, well-to-do, directionless twentysomethings in Reagan's America.

Waiting for the Parade, by Alberta-based playwright John Murrell. "It's about five women in Calgary during World War II whose husbands have all gone off to fight," says Blachly, noting the similarity to the Vermonters whose National Guard spouses have been sent to Iraq.

Not About Heroes, by Scotsman Stephen MacDonald, is based on the true story of poets Siegfried Sassoon and Wilfred Owen, whose friendship developed while both were committed to a psychiatric hospital for opposing the First World War.

Do I detect a theme here?

Leave it to Gilbert & Sullivan to provide comic relief. This year Blachly chose Princess Ida, in which a smitten fellow, dressed in drag, scales the walls of a women's university to find and win over his beloved.

Local actors can audition at Unadilla, though Blachly is known to go almost anywhere for tryouts. Heads up, black male actors, if you're out there... For more info, directions and schedule, visit

Burlington has not been kind to the Vermont Arts Council's 40th-anniversary touring show, featuring 27 of the state's finest artists. After a March run at the T.W. Wood Gallery in Montpelier, "Art of Achievement" was to hang at the Phoenix Gallery -- which suddenly and unexpectedly closed. The VAC scrambled for a new venue and found The Gallerie@Opaline. But then VAC Communications Director Andrea Stander learned that the Opaline Restaurant would not be able to host an April 22 dinner honoring former Gov. Phil Hoff. With just a day's notice, the VAC moved the event to the accommodating Wyndham Hotel. Now, she says, due to further snafus, the VAC is renting the Lawson Lane venue themselves. And staffing it. All of which means that visiting hours have been changed, and the Council is looking for "qualified volunteers" to gallery-sit. If interested, contact Stander at 828-5422 or The rest of you, catch the show Wednesday through Sunday, noon to 4 p.m., or by appointment before it heads to Bennington -- surely with great relief -- May 30.

Springtime in Paris is heavenly, but the place is still pretty nice even in November. That's when Karen Kane, the Cambridge-based proprietor of Paris By Design, plans to lead a group of women artists to the City of Light. The weeklong tour will include visits to galleries, museums and other art-related locales, hanging out with Parisian women artists, and a daily salon for discussion.

Kane, an avid francophile, established Paris By Design three and a half years ago to create trips for individuals or families, customized to their particular interests. Since a mention in The New York Times last December, she says, "The phone has been ringing off the hook." Over the last year Kane has been working with women in the arts: Last fall she created a tour for a California dance troupe; this spring she accompanied Burlington jazz-blues singer Jenni Johnson to Paris "to help her break in there."

A unique aspect of the women- artists' tour, which Kane is calling "Paris for the Senses," is that meetings actually start in June and continue after the trip, so that artists can set goals for the experience, then talk about it with their new friends afterwards. If all that makes you say oui, oui, contact Kane -- by early June -- at 849-9707 or visit Sorry guys, maybe another time.