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VPR's coverage of arts and culture in the region.

Otter Creek Festival Of The Arts Is Underway In Rutland

Nina Keck
VPR file
The first-ever Otter Creek Festival of the Arts will bring musicals, cabarets and dramatic readings to Rutland County over the next five weeks.

Nineteen performances ranging from musicals "Sunset Boulevard" and "Spring Awakening" to cabarets and dramatic readings will be staged across Rutland County over the next five weeks, as part of the first-ever Otter Creek Festival of the Arts. 

The festival, which opened last weekend, will present the drama “The Trial of Mrs. Surratt” this Thursday through Saturday at Merchant’s Hall in downtown Rutland.

Credit provided
"The Trial of Mrs. Surratt" a play by Lanie Robertson will be performed Thursday through Saturday at Merchants Hall in Rutland. The play explores lingering questions around the execution of Mary Surratt for her involvement in the murder of Abraham Lincoln.

Director Natalie Villamonte Zito describes the drama as very movement-based with lots of sound and music.  “There are these old Civil War battle hymns that we are completely reinventing,” she said during a recent rehearsal.

The title character, Mrs. Surratt, was the first woman ever executed by the U.S. government, "because she was thought to be a conspirator with John Wilkes Booth," explains Villamonte Zito. 

Historians examining Abraham Lincoln’s murder have raised questions about Surratt’s guilt, which Villamonte Zito says this drama explores.

She says it's especially exciting because the play, which was written by Lanie Robertson, has never been performed before. 

Robertson is perhaps best known for writing “Lady Day at Emerson’s Bar and Grill,” a musical about the legendary jazz singer Billy Holliday that earned raves on Broadway. 

The festival will offer a variety of shows at venues across Rutland County through July 24th.

Villamonte Zito is the founding director of The Wandering Theater Company in New York City. She says she recently became friends with Robertson after she staged one of his early works.

“He said, ‘Look, I have this play; it’s never been produced before. But I think from what I see, your style would blend well with this. Have a read, no pressure,’” Villamonte Zito says. After reading the play, she immediately started thinking about how to put it on stage, adding, “I loved it.”

“The Trial of Mrs Surratt” is one of many offerings in the first-ever Otter Creek Festival of the Arts.  The event is the brainchild of 26-year-old Rutland native Jacob Patorti, a composer, conductor, producer and director who splits his time between Rutland and New York City.   

“I’ve invited every friend of mine to come and create with us,” says Patorti.  “And I think about 80 percent said I’ll be there when can I arrive. And we now have 230 some-odd people working on this six-weeks arts festival.”

“It’s a dream come true,” he adds with a smile.

Patorti says he wanted to celebrate what he calls Rutland’s renaissance and felt an arts festival would be a perfect way to do that. 

Learn more about the Otter Creek Festival of the Arts here.

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