A new professional theater company in Ridgefield will give a Scottish playwright’s work its U.S. premiere this summer. Thrown Stone Theatre Company was founded by Ridgefielder Jason Peck and Jonathan Winn of Carmel, N.Y., who are its co-artistic directors. They are busy preparing for the company’s first play, the U.S. premiere of Milk by Ross Dunsmore, July 14–30 at the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance.
Tickets went on sale today, Jan. 26, at thrownstone.org or 203-442-1714 and are $49 for adults, $29 for those 29 and younger.
Peck discovered the play at the Edinburgh Festival Fringe in Scotland last year. “It moved me,” he said. “I usually watch a play as an actor/director, aware of what is being done, but I was totally absorbed by this play, couldn’t get it out of my head. It consists of small moments of interaction between three couples at different stages of life. It looks at the common need to love and be nourished by love. Love is a need that can make us sick or whole, spiritually and physically. As one character says, ‘Love is milk.’
“I found the play to be funny, touching, uplifting, challenging and thought-provoking … relatable to so many different people. While the work of a Scottish playwright, the ideas are universal. I sought out the playwright to get the rights to premiere it in the United States.”
Winn was also taken by the play when he read it. “Milk looks at love from so many angles; love is about light and darkness, it can be redemptive or destructive. It is about how it applies to our lives; how we strike a balance … there is always that sense of menace. Love is the thing that can be everything or can be an anchor. Milk is about connections and fighting to break through to each other; sometimes we have to decide whether to suffer together or in isolation.
“The theme of connection is central to us as a theater company,” Winn adds. “It is the role of theater.”
Peck will direct the play and Winn is part of the six-member cast that also includes Alana Arco and Aidan Meachem of Ridgefield, Melody James and Alexandra Perlwitz of Westport, and Cyrus Newitt of North Salem.
The play will be familiar to some area residents.
“We did a reading at the Ridgefield Library last summer as first test, to see if there was an appetite for what we wanted to bring to the town, and held a talkback afterward; 90 percent of the participants said they were likely to recommend the play to a friend,” said Peck. “Then we were honored to be invited to give a reading at the Chekhov International Theatre Festival last September and there wasn’t a dry eye in the house, which confirmed our sense of it being a very special play,” noted Peck.
Peck and Winn met as students at the University of Southern California and have remained friends since. Aside a love for theater, the men share a lot of similar interests and both became fathers of daughters on the same day in 2010.
Winn came to the East Coast first, moving to Carmel, N.Y., working as an art director. When Peck received the offer to be director of theater arts at St. Luke’s School in New Canaan, he asked Winn to check out a couple of communities for him, including Ridgefield.
As the men talked about their theater interests, Winn related, “Jason asked if I wanted to collaborate on something. I responded, ‘I thought you’d never ask!’ I’ve been hungry to get back into the theater in some way, so we bounced ideas off each other. We both have a passion for new work, and decided to focus in that area. There is an energy out there for new work; a groundswell for new ideas, and playwrights who want their stories to be told.”
Researching theater in the area, they learned while there is much community theater in Fairfield and Westchester Counties, the Westport Playhouse is the area’s only professional theater. They believed Ridgefield would support their vision of a professional theater company for new works.
“The arts ecosystem is strong here, with lots of different spices; every time we collaborate with someone, it’s a great experience,” said Winn. “We believe the development of new work gives voice to the community where the work is developed. In involving the community in developing something new, to create something from nothing and put it out into the world, the voice of Ridgefield will come through.” They welcome queries from playwrights.
Peck added, “We are gratefully in debt to our Ridgefield angels — about a dozen core members of the local artistic community — for embracing and enabling our vision. Daniela Sikora of the Ridgefield Chorale was behind us from day one and is providing rehearsal space and the risers for our performances. Amy Piantaggini of the Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance welcomed us to present the premiere in one of her studios. When set up, it will make a great black box stage. Lesley Lambton of the Ridgefield Library, Hilary Aronow and Alison Greeley of the Ridgefield Arts Council, Abby Walker and Jeffery Albanesi, of the Chekhov International Theatre Festival, Katie Tomlinson and Daniel C. Levine, ACT of Connecticut, and Allison Stockel, Suzanne Brennan and Julie Paltauf of Ridgefield Playhouse, have all lent their support in meaningful ways.”
Milk will be presented at Ridgefield Conservatory of Dance, 444 Main Street, weekends July 14-30; Friday and Saturday nights at 8, Sunday matinee at 2. The play is an hour, 45 minutes and will be presented without an intermission.