HAYDENVILLE — Amanda Weisenthal has been a part of many productions during her theater career — from Broadway to high school plays — but rarely has she led the type of show scheduled to take place this weekend at a Haydenville farm.
Rather than sitting back and enjoying the show, audience members who attend the mystical production “The Realm of Fire” at Valley View Farm will be taken into a “magical world where they are completely part of the magic,” Weisenthal said. They will talk to the actors, figure out storylines and participate in the interactive theater adventure in several other ways.
Weisenthal said the show, being produced by the farm’s newest endeavor called FarmTheater, is unique because of the way it pulls the audience in and thrives off spontaneity and improvisation.
“It really allows for the audience to talk to the actors, and for the audience to figure things out so that the actors can do other things, so it really allows them to have a contribution to the show,” the director said. “You feel invested in it. It makes you think – it makes you care because you’re now a part of it.”
The premise of “The Realm of Fire” is to free the world from the Great Dragon with elves and fairies on candlelit trails through forest and meadow. The 45-minute show for all ages is filled with dwarfs, elves, fairies, a dragon and endless aesthetics. Theatergoers will be greeted by captivating costumes and fire tricks as they are guided along a half-mile trail through the farm’s grounds.
“This is what this place needs. We need a place where an adult will absolutely have a blast and love it, and then you can take the kids, too, so it’s not these separate worlds,” Weisenthal said.
Weisenthal believes the show has a message, and from riddles to comedic scenes, all who attend will be intrigued — not scared.
“If we all work together and solve the problem, we will defeat the dragon and whatever evil that takes over,” Weisenthal said.
Weisenthal graduated from New York University in 1991 with a degree in film and theater. She has worked on Broadway, in television, and at a performing arts college in Cambridge, England.
She settled in Northampton nine years ago and began working in the theater department at Northampton High School. Additionally, she directed six musicals at Hampshire Regional High School in Westhampton.
With all her experience, Weisenthal said she has not been this artistically excited about something in years.
“To make people really feel something, to make them really see something they haven’t seen before, it’s just a gift. It’s totally awesome. I’m so happy I got picked to do this. I feel honored,” she said.
Weisenthal said she hopes people will leave saying the show was the best they have ever seen, and that sentiment will bring them back to see more shows down the road.
Daniel Sullivan is assistant director of the performance and said he is also thrilled to be part of the experience.
“I think our actors are phenomenal, and everyone participating is amazing … it’s all just incredible and I can’t believe it’s coming together,” Sullivan said.
The 40-person cast, from teenagers to adults in their 40s, marks a new chapter at the Valley View Farm and the first performance taking place there.
According to Weisenthal, the idea for FarmTheater’s debut came from the Valley View Farm owner’s son, who saw “The Realm of Fire” performed at the Bonnyvale Environmental Education Center in Vermont and decided they should do something similar here. The show, written by James and Jessica Gelter, was then brought to the farm.
“This is the birth of the FarmTheater and we’re doing it with a bang,” she said.
In the future, she said the theater hopes to present two shows a year, one in the spring and one in the fall.
Ultimately, Weisenthal said, the goal is to develop FarmTheater into a community theater that brings local residents of all generations together.
“The Realm of Fire” will be produced from Friday to Sunday at the farm at 16 Walpole Road. Shows on Friday and Saturday will take place between 5:30 and 8:30 p.m., and Sunday from 2 to 5 p.m. Each show will be led by a character who takes them down a candle-lit path, and a new group departs every 15 minutes.
Tickets are $15 for adults, $10 for children ages 12 and under and free for children 3 and under. Weisenthal said she recommends purchasing tickets in advance and that participants bring flashlights for evening shows. The trail is not wheelchair accessible.
The production will be accompanied by food trucks, including Holyoke Hummus, Wheelhouse, Beets & Barley, GoBerry and Mission Cantina.
For more information, visit http://farmtheater.com/ or check out “The Realm of Fire” event page on Facebook.