Potomac Theatre Project enjoy an outing amid rehearsals in Olney, Md.  Left to right, beginning at bottom row: Meghan Nesmith, John Stokvis, Rachel Dunlap, Becky Martin, Bill Army and MacLeod

MIDDLEBURY, Vt.-Seven theater majors and three recent Middlebury College graduates pounded the boards and worked behind the scenes this summer with the Potomac Theatre Project (PTP), an acclaimed alternative theater company based in Olney, Md., near the nation’s capitol.  The Middlebury actors joined the theater company on all aspects of the production of four plays, all of which enjoyed a three-week run at the Potomac Theatre Festival.

PTP, an outgrowth of the New York Theatre Studio, an off-off Broadway company

(Front row, left to right) Bill Army, Rachel Dunlap, Andrew Zox, Becky Martin, MacLeod Andrews, John Stokvis, (back row) Julia Proctor, Lucas Kavner and Meghan Nesmith take a swim break.  Photo courtesy of Middlebury College

founded by Middlebury College theater professors Richard Romagnoli and Cheryl Faraone, is affiliated with the theater program at the college.  PTP has offered Middlebury students an opportunity to work alongside professionals since its first season in 1987.

Seniors Rachel Dunlap, Lucas Kavner, Meghan Nesmith, Julia Proctor and Seda Savas were joined by juniors MacLeod Andrews,  William Army and recent graduates Rebecca Martin, John Stokvis and Andrew Zox to make up this summer’s troupe.  As part of PTP, they worked alongside industry professionals in the production, promotion, staging and performance of four plays in the Potomac Theatre Festival, an annual festival of


Middlebury College John Stokvis (left) and Bill Army perform in Neal Bell’s play “Somewhere in the Pacific” during the Potomac Theatre Festival. Photo courtesy of Middlebury College

politically and socially provocative theater.  Opening at the Olney Theatre Center for the Arts in Olney on July 17, the four plays ran through Aug. 7.

In the company’s repertory were Neal Bell’s “Somewhere in the Pacific,” directed by Jim Petosa, artistic director of the Olney Theatre Center; Edward Albee’s “The American Dream,” directed by Middlebury College Professor of Theatre Richard Romagnoli; Harold Pinter’s “One for the Road,” directed by award-winning British director Chris Hayes; and Snoo Wilson’s “Lovesong of the Electric Bear,” directed by

John Stokvis (foreward, on right), Meghan Nesmith (center) and Lucas Kavner (back, on right) perform in Snoo Wilson’s “Lovesong of the Electric Bear” with a professional actor from the Washington, D.C.,-area, Valerie Leonard. Photo courtesy of Middlebury College

Middlebury College Professor of Theatre and Women’s and Gender Studies Cheryl Faraone.

According to Faraone, PTP provides students with the invaluable experience of working with professionals in a thriving theater community, and gives them the opportunity to see how rehearsals and working processes are conducted in an atmosphere very different from that experienced at college.  In addition to their specific roles and duties, students also are involved generally in all facets of theater production.

“In addition to playing the character of Bill Dupre in ‘Somewhere in the Pacific,’ I also understudied the parts of three other actors,” said William Army.  “We also all helped out on work calls in which we built and painted the sets, assisted the director and stage manager, designed wardrobe, composed music, choreographed dance sequences and performed many other important tasks.”

“While the program is a lot of work, it offers insight on the different aspects of production and the many dynamics of the professional rehearsal process,” said Rachel Dunlap, who played the role of Gila in “One for the Road.”  Dunlap was also assistant director for “The American Dream” and wardrobe manager for “Lovesong of the Electric Bear.”

MacLeod Andrews appreciated the opportunity to hone his acting skills by working with professional actors.  “I acted with four professional actors in ‘Somewhere in the Pacific,’ ” said Andrews.  “I had substantial scenes with each of them, so I got to soak in their talents.”

According to Rebecca Martin, working with PTP also serves as a strong introduction to the vibrant theater community surrounding Washington, D.C.  “PTP creates a nice bridge to the theater scene in D.C., and helps you gain exposure.  Many PTP students have joined the theater community here after graduating, and have been hired by theater companies,” she said.  “This is crucial because there are not too many ‘entry level jobs’ in the theater business.”

“This has been a very good group of students,” commented Faraone.  “All but one were new to the process, so they had to learn quickly and respond to very unfamiliar situations.  This they have done with grace, humor and creative imagination.”

Middlebury College students audition on campus ever year for positions with PTP.  As part of the company, they receive a weekly stipend and take up residence during the summer season at the Olney Theatre Center.