Playwright Carole Vasta Folley (third from right), who is assistant editor of The Other Paper, along with her cast of Alumni Pie, which includes South Burlington residents Roy Cutler and Linda McGinnis. CREDIT: Crowley Girl Photography


Vasta Folley Premieres New Play

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Thursday September 17, 2015

Carole Vasta Folley is quickly becoming known as one of the regions exciting creative voices. A playwright and storyteller, her trademarks are quirky but believable characters and dynamically rich scenarios full of heart and humor. This is more than evident in her upcoming premiere of Alumni Pie presented by Girls Nite Out Productions (GNOP). Alumni Pie, a comedy about a group of college friends reuniting almost 40 years after graduation, capitalizes on Vasta Folley’s keen sense of humor embedded inside a story about reunion and second chances. “It’s about exposing the perfect imperfection of the human condition,” says Vasta Folley. “And, of course, entertaining the audience. Entertainment is eschewed in some circles, but I embrace it. Most importantly, I want to say something about our true nature and the crazy, but loving, way we connect with one another.”

Vasta Folley’s own story began in the Vermont hamlet of Hyde Park where she grew up less than a block from the historic Hyde Park Opera House. The playwright recalls childhood years of secretly crawling in through the windows to play on the opera house stage. “Back then, it seemed cavernous and a bit intimidating, but all the while magical. I was always looking for a place to belong; to this day that opera house is home.”

Eventually, Vasta Folley reports, she worked up her courage to walk through the front door and audition. But, as she laughingly admits, there were a few failed attempts when she bolted for home before finishing the tryout. Finally, she began to win roles in the noted summer productions. “I started in the chorus, which is a great vantage point to learn the ropes. There is value in any role you have on stage,” says Vasta Folley. Beyond loving the experience of theater, she also found that the camaraderie of theater is like no other. “I think many of us join a troupe because we know it becomes our family,” she says, recalling, “When our daughter went off to college I told her, if she was ever lonely and missing family, join a theatre group.”

Vasta Folley has had countless supporting and lead roles in musicals, plays, and variety shows. “I love inhabiting a character and the feeling of freedom it gives me,” she explains. “I feel things deeply and intuitively. At a young age, being on stage felt like the first time I ever lived out loud.”
The playwright says her friend and music director Jane Bouffard inspired her to direct. “I thought it would feel limiting and less expressive than acting. Boy was I wrong!” In 1999, Vasta Folley directed her first musical, Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat and has not stopped since. “I remember standing in the back of the theater on opening night and having this out of body experience where I felt I was part of every single thing on stage - from the incredible cast to the swaying palm trees of the set. The only question then was, what show shall I direct next?”

 Vasta Folley credits much of her directing skills to the tutelage of Steven Hall. A founder of the Lamoille County Players, the resident company of Hyde Park Opera House, “Steve” was a transplant from New York City and known regionally as the “Grande Dame of Theater.” “Everything I know about the fundamentals of directing came from Steve. But more than that, it was her zest for the work that left an indelible mark,” shares the playwright. “To this day, I have a hard time stopping rehearsals for a break as I never want to stop.”  

“As a director, I am all-in,” declares Vasta Folley. “I think it’s a magnificent way to go in life and it works really well for directing.” She adds, “As a director I get opportunity to craft the entire experience.” Comparing directing to captaining a ship, she says, “A director must hold the vision and enroll others so that everyone is headed in the same direction.” She describes it as both a big responsibility and a tremendous privilege, and one she takes very seriously. “When people have paid hard earned money and taken time out of their busy lives to come to my show, I want them to get something out of it. That’s my job.”  

Vasta Folley admits she can be a “little compulsive” about having her hands in all aspects of a show. Actress Robin Owens describes it this way, “Carole has input in every area of production because she can see the finished product like a brilliantly cut diamond. She is caring of those she works with and generous in spirit. Her genius is everywhere. As an actor you know she wants you to shine, and mines you for your best possible performance.”

After success directing both large-scale musicals and small intimate plays, Vasta Folley yearned for something more. “I’ve always had this notion that I had something to say. I am a storyteller by nature; it is who I am. My husband says I can’t go to the store or the post office without returning home with a story.”

All that was missing, Vasta Folley realized, was the structure and the practice of sitting down to write. “I needed to show up and keep that commitment to myself.” What happened thereafter, in Vasta Folley’s vernacular, was miraculous. “When I write, I do not tell my characters who they are or what will happen - they tell me,” she says. “How lucky am I?”  

“Comedy is my milieu. Even when I tell a sad story, there will always be some laughter involved,” says Vasta Folley. Reflecting on some challenging times in her own life, she continues, “I view them through this lens of compassion and especially humor since it is the balm that makes the tough stuff manageable.”

GNOP premiered Vasta Folley’s The Family of Ewe in 2013, a play described as a “laugh-out-loud ode to the bonds of female friendship.”

GNOP Co-Founder Jennifer Warwick, who started the company to create theater opportunities for women of all ages, explains, “Finding material is always a challenge. We had picked a play and asked Carole to direct it, she said she had an idea for an original play, wrote Alumni Pie and we loved it ... the rest is history.” 

Alumni Pie is one of three new plays Carole has written since 2013, along with several others in development. She recently was the recipient of the 2015 Vermont Playwright’s Award for The Sleepover - A Comedy of Marriage as well as the Flynn Center’s Vermont Artists’ Space Grant for the development of her drama, The Seymour Sisters. This two-woman play will tour Vermont in 2016 supported by a grant Vasta Folley was awarded from the Vermont Arts Endowment Fund of the Vermont Community Foundation.

For now, Vasta Folley says, “It’s all about Alumni Pie which opens on October 1.” Noting that it does take a village to bring a new work to the stage, “The cast and crew are talented, generous, creative, and amazing human beings. I may have written the script, but they, each one of them, bring the soul.” Vasta Folley is excited to see the play come alive before an audience, “Alumni Pie’s cast is very funny and endearing. I think the audience will be moved by their story and ultimately by the connection they have.” Then with a mischievous grin, to make a point of the hilarity in the play, she quickly adds, “Of course, if you want to come to see men modeling bras, I’m good with that too!”

Cast member Linda McGinnis describes the play as, “A show that makes you laugh and cry, that makes you see yourself in each character and be at once soothed and uncomfortable. That’s Carole’s magic.” Janet Stambolian, GNOP co-founder and cast member adds, “It’s a perfect metaphor for how to live as a healthy adult—deal with the hard stuff so you can move on and then play together.” 

When the cast was asked what it was like working with Vasta Folley on Alumni Pie, Stambolian had this to say, “To have this deep sense of collaboration and partnership with the playwright is a true gift for any actor. The part she wrote speaks to all of my greatest joys as an actor - having a role with substance, heart and a lot of silliness.”

Perhaps McGinnis describes it best, saying, “Carole has the soul of a playwright, the vision of a director, and the heart of an actor. That means she sees her play from the inside out, and then in the next moment, from the outside in. And because of her innate humanity, she knows how to communicate that to her actors and make each of them feel special, supported, and challenged simultaneously. You feel like you are in a limousine of theater experience.”

GNOP, Vasta Folley, and the cast & crew of Alumni Pie invite you to come see the show, join the fun, be part of the camaraderie, part of their “family.” Share in the laughs and the poignant moments too, because, in the playwright’s own words, “Bottom line – we need each other.”

Girls Night Out Productions presents Alumni Pie, October 1-4 & 7-10, evening & matinee performances, Main Street Landing Black Box Theater, Burlington. For tickets or more information, visit flynntix.org or girlsniteoutvt.com.