All in the Family: Three Generations of Blachlys Bring Theater to Small-Town Vermont | Theater | Seven Days | Vermont's Independent Voice

Seven Days needs your financial support!

All in the Family: Three Generations of Blachlys Bring Theater to Small-Town Vermont 

State of the Arts

Published March 18, 2009 at 9:11 a.m.


When the Blachly family gets together, it’s all hands on stage. For the last several decades, Bill Blachly, now in his mid-eighties, has run Unadilla Theater in a hand-built structure behind his house in Marshfield. His son, Tom, and daughter, Ellie, are frequent faces in Unadilla productions — singing, acting and directing as needed. Even the grandkids perform on cue.

The Blachly clan’s summertime community-theater productions of off-Broadway plays and Gilbert & Sullivan musicals are renowned for their reliance on local talent, professionalism and entertainment value. Where else do you get the chance to see your neighbors convincingly portray physicists, poets, English fops and landed gentry?

This fixture of central Vermont shoestring stagecraft has expanded to the off-season. Tom Blachly, with fellow theater buff Peter Young, has created a new tradition designed to lighten the leadenness of mud season: Shakespeare in the Hills. Now in its second year, the theater group is performing The Merry Wives of Windsor under Tom’s direction. His wife, Susannah, and their 10-year-old son, Adam, both appear in the play.

The troupe of 30 amateur actors manages to make the bard’s bawdiest comedy seem relevant. After all, the themes here are timeless: sex, gluttony, more sex, intrigue, jealousy, true love. Never mind that the setting is Windsor, England, circa 1600.

The farce opens with the old bard himself (played by Statehouse curator David Schutz) explaining that Merry Wives was commissioned by Queen Elizabeth I, who was so taken with the character of Sir John Falstaff that she wanted to see a play in which the old roué falls in love. Shakespeare purportedly whipped up the play in about two weeks.

The actors make the most of the material. Half the time their well-rehearsed lines sound more like hip-hop than 400-year-old Elizabethan English. They may owe their fluency with the arcane lingo to the longer-than-usual rehearsal schedule, beginning last October. “It made a big difference, because the actors were able to live their characters for a while,” Tom says.

The playbill contains a synopsis of Merry Wives, an explanation of its place in Shakespeare’s oeuvre, and a cost/benefit analysis of living in a small community such as Windsor, where everyone knows everyone else’s faults. This ends with a pointed tribute to the vitality of small burgs: “As you watch this play unfold, and you see your neighbors playing out citizens of an Elizabethan town 400 years ago, we hope you think, too, in this season of Town Meeting, about our own community here in Vermont.”

Ah, yes, community, in which no one can get away with anything. At least Shakespeare got a few laughs out of all that excessive good will — and so do the Blachlys.

Want to see for yourself?

The Merry Wives of Windsor, produced by Shakespeare in the Hills. Fuller Hall, St. Johnsbury Academy, March 19, 20 & 21 at 7:30 p.m. $10-14. Info, 454-9334.

Got something to say? Send a letter to the editor and we'll publish your feedback in print!

More By This Author

About The Author

Anne Galloway


Comments are closed.

Since 2014, Seven Days has allowed readers to comment on all stories posted on our website. While we’ve appreciated the suggestions and insights, the time has come to shut them down — at least temporarily.

While we champion free speech, facts are a matter of life and death during the coronavirus pandemic, and right now Seven Days is prioritizing the production of responsible journalism over moderating online debates between readers.

To criticize, correct or praise our reporting, please send us a letter to the editor. Or send us a tip. We’ll check it out and report the results.

Online comments may return when we have better tech tools for managing them. Thanks for reading.

Keep up with us Seven Days a week!

Sign up for our fun and informative

All content © 2022 Da Capo Publishing, Inc. 255 So. Champlain St. Ste. 5, Burlington, VT 05401

Advertising Policy  |  Privacy Policy  |  Contact Us  |  About Us  |  Help
Website powered by Foundation