Westchester could use a little more drama. That’s the notion that went through the mind of Trent Dawson when he moved here from New York City four years ago.
Despite being home to Caramoor, the Katonah Museum of Art and a smattering of independent art galleries, he quickly noticed the area was missing a key attraction.
“This area has a thriving arts community, but they don’t have a professional theater, especially one anchored in the classics,” said Mr. Dawson in an interview.
Mr. Dawson is a quadruple threat, having professional credits as an actor, director, writer and producer.
Before becoming a three-time Daytime Emmy nominated actor, he traveled the country performing in stage productions like “King Lear.” The experience cemented in him a deep love for classic works and a desire to share them with others.
“I like what happened to those communities when they supported the theater and I always thought I’d really like to start something of my own,” Mr. Dawson said. “The more I talked to people here, the more I realized my timing was perfect.”
Fast forward to the launch of his new nonprofit theater company, Katonah Classic Stage, whose mission is to offer diverse and professional productions of classical and contemporary plays in northern Westchester. Upcoming productions by Katonah Class Stage will be hosted by the Harvey School in Katonah.
“It makes sense. They have a beautiful, big theater there lying dormant during the times of our show,” Mr. Dawson said.
Staffing, casts and crews will draw from the well of talent found locally, as well as in New York City. Auditions for KCS’s production of “Twelfth Night” in June will take place in New York on Friday, March 20, and in Katonah on Saturday, March 21.
“I want to get as many local people involved as possible. I’m just scratching the surface of the talent that is up here,” Mr. Dawson said.
The company’s inaugural year will kick off with a fundraiser on Friday, March 14, from 7 to 9 p.m. at the Harvey School. The benefit will raise funds for the inaugural season and beyond. It will include appetizers from some of northern Westchester’s finest chefs, an open bar, a silent auction and live entertainment. Organizers are calling the event “The Eve of the Ides” as it falls a day before March 15 (“Beware the Ides of March,” a soothsayer warned Julius Caesar in Shakespeare’s drama of that name.)
Going forward, the company’s goal is to provide seasonal productions and eventually offer educational programs to children and adults in the theater arts with an emphasis on Shakespeare and other master dramatists.
“The reason these plays are done over and over again is not because they’re read in English class. They’re done because they’re some of the best things ever written,” Mr. Dawson said.
He encourages individuals haunted by humdrum readings of classic plays in high school to attend at least one production.
“There’s a lot of strife in the world but this is the chance to rise above that for a moment and experience a transformational thing that can lift you above the fray,” Mr. Dawson said.
This is also why he chose Shakespeare’s comedy, “Twelfth Night” as the company’s debut production, scheduled to run at The Walker Center for the Arts at the Harvey School from June 18 to June 25.
“This is the perfect play to lift people’s spirits,” Mr. Dawson said of the play, which features a shipwreck, a lost brother, drunken pranksters and more mayhem. “It also establishes our aesthetic and credentials. If we can do this, we can do anything else you throw at us.”
To purchase tickets for the March 14 fundraiser or for more information on how to get involved, visit katonahclassicstage.com.