At the Abbey of Regina Laudis  • 249 Flanders Road • Bethlehem, CT 06751  |  Directions
For tickets and information visit: The Gary-The Olivia Performing Arts Center.

Go to Current Production.

Mother DoloresThe Gary-The Olivia Theater is an open air theater that was built in 1982 and seats about 300 people. The theater is covered but opens at the back to the woods of the Abbey land, and the trees and birds are often a feature of the theatrical world that is created on stage. The link between drama and monastic life is an ancient one, but The Gary-The Olivia Theater in particular owes its existence to Reverend Mother Dolores Hart, the actress, who in 1963 gave up a successful Hollywood career to become a nun at the Abbey. Far from putting an end to her acting career, she discovered that monastic life transcended her acting vocation: Obviously a cloistered monastery is not the conventional place that one goes to realize one's potential as an actress. And yet, in my case, my vocation as an actress could only have reached its fullest expression, its fullest expansion because I was fortunate enough to have been called to a monastic way of life.

Each summer an annual play is produced, which is attended by over 3000 people. Productions are reviewed by major media outlets in Connecticut, and parts are played by both veterans and newcomers, often attracting young people who live in the area to play roles. Anyone is invited to audition.

In the 1970's, a company of actors called the Act Association formed around James and Dawn Douglas, friends of Mother Dolores, and fellow actors. Patricia Neal and James Douglas performed together in A.R. Gurney's play Love Letters, and over the years productions by the group have ranged from Shakespeare to Sartre, from opera to musical reviews. The Theater has also performed musicals in recent years:My Fair Lady, The Music Man, Fiddler On The Roof, West Side Story,Guys and Dolls and Oklahoma.
For many young people, the experience of acting at the Abbey theater has opened up a new and rich dimension to their lives. Their desire to explore this further and equally the desire to nurture it have both grown in recent years. As a result, a small performing arts organization has been formed called TomThe Gary-The Olivia Performing Arts Center. Its commitment is to presenting, promoting and fostering excellence in the performing arts through theatrical productions and educational workshops at the Abbey theater. The Center plans to offer programs that extend beyond the summer and give young actors the opportunity to develop their skills—in dancing and voice for example—in order to best express themselves as actors. The Center also hopes to create structures to facilitate this, such as an all-weather performance and rehearsal space adjacent to the theater which would enable work to go on throughout the year.

Artistic directors Sally & Thomas Camm have announced The Pitmen Painters and the musical Fiorello as the 2013 summer productions at The Gary-The Olivia Theater.

June 14 opening night gala/fundraiser Tickets are $25 and include the performance, wines from Walker Road Vineyards in Woodbury, CT paired with local farmstead cheeses from the northeast USA and a meet and greet with the cast. Don’t miss The Pitmen Painters at The Gary-The Olivia this summer - June 14-23!

The Pitmen Painters Performance dates: June 14 (Opening night gala), 15, 21, 22 at 7:30 pm; June 16, 23 at 2:30 pm The Gary-The Olivia Theater, 273 Flanders Road, Bethlehem, CT 06751

PitmenThe Pitmen Painters written by Lee Hall (of Billy Elliot fame) was inspired by a book by art critic and author William Feaver. It is an inspirational story about a close-knit group of miners in Northern England in the 1930s who enroll in an art appreciation class as a way of learning about art and the world. The story follows members of the group as they interact with a university instructor, experiment with actual painting and gradually build a body of work that establishes them as The Ashington Group, a briefly celebrated group of painters in the 1930s and 40s.

Receiving critical acclaim in London and on Broadway, Pitmen is a humorous, thought-provoking and moving testament to friendship, human aspiration, and the transforming power of art. The play asks the question: what is art, and does it enhance our lives in some way?

The Preview Evening for The Pitmen Painters held at the Flanders Nature Center Saturday, June 8th, was a sold-out, very successful event!

PitmenFiorellopic_02.jpgFlanders Curator and artist Marc Chabot spoke of an amazing congruence—how exceptional art created by a group of coal miners in England relates to the groundbreaking art of Natalie Van Vleck, the founder of the Flanders Nature Center & Land Trust. Following the talk, several actors from the cast of The Pitmen Painters performed a scene from the play. Marija McCarthy led a discussion on how the practice of art can alter a life, and cure and restore human spirit and dignity.

(The sketch of Oliver Kilbourne, one of the pitmen, was done by Robert Lyon, the teacher of their art appreciation class. Racing whippets and growing leeks were two pastime activities of the miners. Reproduction of sketch and painting courtesy of Dramatists Play Service, Inc. and Ashington Group Trustees)

The Pitmen Painters received rave reviews!
From Joanne Greco Rochman – Republican American:

How Good: 4 out of 5 stars!
Directed by Sally Camm, the cast recreates the journey that five men in a mining community take, from never having seen a real painting to producing some very fine artwork of their own.
...Thomas Camm plays Oliver Kilbourn, the soul of the play and the heart of the ensemble. Camm's performance is touching and genuine. So too, Joe Stofko, his performance as the dentist Harry Wilson reveals the character as well-read, interested in economics, and vocal about Communism.
From Kathleen Riedel - Prime Publishers:
The five members... played by Kevin McElroy, Joe Stofko, Thomas Camm, Fredrick Doms and Gregory Wright, Jr., question age-old stereotypes of art evaluation with organic banter and wit, while flawlessly navigating the long thin vowels of the Northeastern English accent.
Perhaps it is The Gary-The Olivia Theatre’s proximity with the wooded Connecticut landscape or the players’ evident identification with their characterizations that make “The Pitmen Painters” production so convincing.
See more reviews at The Gary-The Olivia Performing Arts Center

The Musical Fiorello
August 1 through August 11, 2013

Opening night gala/fundraiser for The Gary-The Olivia Theater. Join us on August 1st (opening night, Fiorello) for an inspiring night of theater featuring some of the best talent in the area, local wines from Walker Road Vineyards, northeast cheeses and a meet and greet with the performers-all in support of The Gary-The Olivia Theater! (tickets- $28.00)

The Pulitzer Prize and Tony Award winning musical Fiorello follows the dynamic professional and political career of Fiorello La Guardia. Elected to Congress in 1916 and 1918, and again from 1922 through 1930 La Guardia served as Mayor of New York for three terms from 1934 to 1945 and was a major influence in the making of modern day New York. He is considered by many to be one of the greatest mayors in American history. Only five feet tall, he was called the Little Flower (“Fiorello” is Italian for "little flower"). The musical is also a love story, telling the story of Fiorello's relationship to Thea (first wife) and Marie (second wife and longtime assistant), two strong women in their own right and great supporters of Fiorello in his political and personal life. The original Broadway production opened at the Broadhurst Theatre in 1959, and won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960.

Beautiful music & lyrics by Jerry Bock and Sheldon Harnick (Fiddler On the Roof).

Admission: $22 general admission, $28 for opening night gala. Purchase tickets now on-line or at the box office 1 hour before the show. Special group rates are available for 10 or more people (except for the opening night gala). Contact Susan at 860 355-5553; or e-mail for more information.