To The Editor:
That was a wonderful story in your paper recently covering 40 years of the Valley Players’ glorious past. But for those of us well beyond a certain age, there is another story to be told and we who have not yet passed on to “the great theater in the sky” know that the Valley Players was really born in 1968, not 1979.
I was the PR/publicity guy at Glen Ellen, Bob Law did the same at Sugarbush, and we both spent a lot of time shuffling papers and doing not much during the summer months. At the end of the 1967-68 ski season, Bob, who had a background in off-off-Broadway theater, suggested we create a summer theater and so we did. Somehow over the next few months we put together a production of "Mr. Roberts" with Bob in the lead, Montpelier judge Louis Peck as the captain and Gary Murdoch as Ensign Pulver. Architect Steve Flemer was realistically memorable as a sailor returning from shore leave. Our "Mr. Roberts" float won Best in Parade on July 4 that year.
We covered the windows at Sugarbush's Gate House base lodge with black plastic and built a whole bunch of sturdy 5-foot-by-10-foot platforms to serve as a stage (they were subsequently stored in the Kingsbury barn over the winter and I can assure you they were heavy and made to last).
A production of "My Three Angels" went up that same year in late August. Tickets were all of $1.75. The set for that production was the interior of a two-story house and was designed and mostly built by Dale Stetson. Dale was a recently retired New York Broadway set designer who had just moved to Warren and opened West Hill House B&B with his wife Pat. That set was astonishing and seldom equaled over the years.
In our second summer,1969, we produced a mystery/comedy, "Exit the Body," around July 4 and "Our Town" on Labor Day weekend. The Valley Players also presented its first variety show. I have no memory of who was in it or what they did, but I know it was terrific. In 1970, the Valley Players produced "You Can't Take it With You" while Bob Law and Curtis Wright headlined "The Odd Couple" – hilarious.
In 1971 another variety show plus "Stalag 17" and "Arsenic and Old Lace" were all well received. We produced "Spoon River Anthology" over the July Fourth holiday the next year, but a planned production of "Barefoot in the Park" never happened and that was also the case for a never-opened production in August of the following year,1973. Our last show prior to going fallow that same year was "The Pleasure of His Company" on July 4, 5, 6 and 7. Times were changing as we moved into the mid-1970s and the Valley Players’ players moved on. The stage platforms then took a well-earned rest in Kingsbury's barn along with the few lights we had purchased during our short but happy six-year life. And a few hundred dollars sat earning interest in Howard Bank.
In fact, The Valley Players was always in the black from day one as it still is today. I remember begging and borrowing from morning till night as we put together each show so even with tickets only in the $2 range, after paying for scripts and a few other things we ended up each summer with a positive cash flow. And virtually all of that was happily spent each season on postproduction epic cast and crew parties, the most memorable of which ended in a mass skinny-dip in the Sugarbush Inn's no-longer-extant pool at 2 a.m. They were not amused when the awakened guests complained. And we all thought we were being so quiet.
Many if not most of those involved with the original Valley Players have either left The Valley or left this earth, but it was a great few years and I will be forever grateful to Jennifer and Mitch for bringing the VP back to life with "Harvey." As they say in what is probably the most famous TV sitcom theme song of all time with kudos to Archie and Edith, "Those Were the Days."