With opening night set for Nov. 18 at 7:30 p.m., cast members of the DCP fall production Dr. Cook’s Garden are seen on the stage in the Old Town Hall, Winchester. From the left, front row: Tom Henbest, Kim Knight, Colette Hutton. Back row: Ron Porteous and Clinton St. Louis. 
Thompson Goddard Photo

WINCHESTER – The premiere of the Dundas County Players fall production Dr. Cook’s Garden is scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on Nov. 18 in the Old Town Hall Theatre in Winchester.

Director Elizabeth Barton explained the play takes place in Greenville Center in Vermont, which has a “greatly loved old physician” and is peopled with “fine, wholesome folk.”  Dr. Tennyson returns to Greenville Centre to visit Dr. Cook and shortly after, it is discovered a serial killer has been at work in the community.

Barton continued there are five cast members, two of whom are performing in their first DCP production. Ron Porteous, who plays Dr. Cook, and Clinton St. Louis, gardener Elias Hart, are new to DCP, with Colette Hutton, portraying nurse Bea Schmidt, Tom Henbest, starring as Dr. Jim Tennyson, and Kim Knight, in her role as housemaid Dora Ludlow, have performed previously with DCP.

Like most theatrical performances, Dr. Cook’s Garden will last for approximately two hours, and will feature five actors. Weeks and months of behind-the-scenes work was done by volunteers, which result in the quality theatrical experiences provided by DCP.

Barton explained the process begins with the DCP reading committee reviewed possible plays to be performed and recommending their choices to the executive. “Often a director from within the group, or a member, or even a patron, may suggest a play to our executive,” continued Barton. She mentioned the recommendations are then reviewed, chosen, and fit into the schedule. The DCP are committed to a spring and fall production, and if able “do a production in the summer as time and interest allows.” Barton explained a comedy or known classic is usually chosen for the spring production and in the fall, a drama or unknown play.

“As director I start thinking about and working on the play a year in advance,” commented Barton, who continued she chose the play for several reasons including the universality of the theme, it was well written and “very real” with very real concerns and conflicts. “The play deals with ethical and disturbing questions that the characters have to come to grips with,” said Barton. She explained the play has been performed on Broadway and was made into a movie.

Cast auditions for the DCP production of Dr. Cook’s Garden were held at the end of May 2022.

“When an audition notice is publicized, the production dates are included so that those interested in auditioning know the commitment required,” said Barton. She explained that it is her preference to direct the fall production, which provides cast members the time to study their lines over the summer and provides the opportunity for them to “hit the ground running at the start of rehearsals in September.”

Production rehearsals began with three, two-hour rehearsals a week, and were bumped up to four, two-hour rehearsals weekly. Barton explained set construction and painting begins a couple of weeks prior to the show, with deadlines making very long days for the people working on the set. Lighting and sound are discussed and designed before the technical rehearsal which is usually scheduled the weekend before opening night.

When asked about the numbers of DCP members involved in this production, she replied there would be 20 to 30 people. Barton explained this number includes the director, producer, five cast members, as well as “soundscape design, lighting and sound techs, props manager, carpenters, set design, construction and painters, poster design, program layout, makeup and hair, costume design and creation, front of house management, director, assistant director, stage manager, assistant stage manager. We all keep open communication so that problems are handled as quickly as possible, and the rehearsals and artistic vision of the play are not compromised in any way.”

Evening performances will be held on Nov. 18-19, Nov. 25-26 beginning at 7:30 p.m. and matinee performances on Nov. 20 and Nov. 27 which begin at 2:00 p.m.