Ridgefield stage troupe dedicated only to new plays starts 2nd season
The shock — and the delight — of the new is what Ridgefield’s Thrown Stone Theatre Company is all about.
The only stage troupe in the area dedicated to new plays had a successful launch last summer with the provocative “Milk,” and they are back with two productions that will play in repertory for the next month. The season begins July 12 and runs through Aug. 4.
Ridgefield’s adventurous stage troupe proved there is an audience for a brand-new unheralded play and the co-artistic directors, Jonathon Winn and Jason Peck, say they felt emboldened to be even more ambitious this summer.
“It is a wonderful thing to see a relationship with an audience begin. That was something we had to discover last year, and so many of the people we touched became super fans who wanted to become more involved this year,” Winn says of the decision to do two plays in rep.
“The big question last year was: Is this thing going to work? Ridgfield is a family town and we wondered would the audience be interested in what we planned to do. The answer was a resounding yes,” Peck adds.
Thrown Stone is operating out of the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance on Main Street and has made a deal to do plays there for at least the next five summers.
Peck says he could tell many patrons last summer found the intimacy of the space to be surprising compared to their prior theater experiences.
“A lot of people go to Broadway shows, so this was a new experience for them,” he says. Every seat is only a few feet away from the actors.
The space has been reworked this summer to accommodate more ambitious design elements, as well as to make it possible to shift between two different plays. (Theatergoers will be able to see “Where All Good Rabbits Go” by Karina Cochran and “The Arsonists” by Jacqueline Goldfinger during one weekend day or on two weekday nights.)
Winn and Peck hired a designer, Fufan Zhang, fresh out of the Yale School of Drama, to rework the space so each of the plays will have its own distinctive look. “She’s terrific and we already have her for next year,” Peck says.
Neither of the two artistic directors wanted to give away too much about this season’s plays other than to say both deal with loss and grief in highly contrasting ways that should trigger a lot of post-performance discussions.
“What we think about when choosing shows is what do we want to talk about — what sort of conversation will the play start?” Winn says.
“Jason read ‘The Arsonists’ before I did as part of his insane mission to read a new play every day until the season was chosen,” he adds, laughing. “He said when he read this one he knew I would love it, and he was right. I read it in one sitting and thought it was so moving and powerful.”
“I tend to like Greek plays that are all about life and death. That’s my wheelhouse,” Winn continues, adding that he thinks it will be exciting to see these particular plays in quick succession. “It’s the same subject matter but explored in crazily different ways.”
“One is a large play in the vein of ‘Electra,’” Peck says, citing the ancient Greek tragedy. “The other is an absurdist allegory, but I think they will work together beautifully.”
Thrown Stone is trying to entice that elusive younger demographic — who tend to eschew theater — with a special “Under 29” promotion where all seats are just $29 for anyone in that age bracket. Senior citizens needn’t fret because they will get in for $49. The regular ticket price is $59.
Winn credits the sophistication of Ridgefield with a lot of the support his theater company has received.
“Culturally it’s an embarrassment of riches,” he says of a town that has another professional theater company, ACT; a symphony orchestra; a major museum, the Aldrich; and a terrific nonprofit movie theater, the Prospector.
“We got to Broadway a lot,” Winn says of his family and friends. “But to buy tickets and dinner, and get a babysitter, you’re talking a $500 adventure.”
“Now you can stay in town and see new theater with Equity actors for a fraction of that cost and we’re taking off three hours of travel time. I think that gives us a tremendous advantage.”