Feuding neighbors. Life-altering decisions. High tempers and even higher stakes. If Vermont’s pitched debate about ridgeline wind power doesn’t have the makings of a drama, I don’t know what does.
Lesley Becker thought so, too. The Montpelier playwright turned to the conversation about wind power in the Northeast Kingdom for inspiration for her latest play, Winds of Change. The play makes its debut on March 27 as part of the Fourth Tuesday Reading Series sponsored by the Vermont Playwrights Circle.
Becker’s recipe goes something like this: Take one powerful utility company, add a landowner who has fallen on hard times, and mix. Her two-act play examines life in a town not unlike Lowell, Vt., before and after the installation of a utility-scale wind project.
Becker stumbled on the story largely by happenstance. She works as a prevention coalition coordinator in the Northeast Kingdom, and about two years ago she was helping a group of teens in Craftsbury design a media campaign to discourage underage drinking. That’s how she found herself at a select board meeting where she heard an expert testify about the proposed Kingdom Community Wind project, now well on its way to completion.
“I was very inspired by the local people who were willing to take on this battle between the little guys and the big guys,” says Becker. She has an opinion — and not a favorable one — about the Lowell wind development, and expects that readers will pick up on the bias in her play. Becker says she didn't come at the project as journalist, but instead as a playwright trying to tease out the experiences of people living in and around the proposed project — those in favor and those against.
Becker has been writing plays for eight or nine years, by her estimation, though she established a background in theater earlier in her life. She turned her back on that world for a time, disillusioned about theater’s relevancy.
“It seemed like theater was very far from what was important to anybody and what could make a difference,” she says.
She’s changed her tune now, having regained some faith in what the medium — and, she hopes, Winds of Change — can do.
“I want to try to honor the people [in Lowell], and shed some light on the issues,” Becker says. “It would be very powerful and effective if it got out to enough people to be educational.”
Becker’s play will be read by a contingent of actors on March 27 at 7 p.m. at the Lost Nation Theater in Montpelier. The event is free and open to the public.
Photo by Kathryn Flagg