By ELIZABETH MACAULEY
Chronicle Staff Writer
WILLIMANTIC â The Windham Theatre Guild has always worked hard producing diverse, exciting and entertaining shows for the community.
Now, folks outside the Thread City know what the organization is capable of.
Thatâs because the Windham Theatre Guild recently won Best Community Theater Company in the 2017 CTNow Readers Poll, sponsored by the Hartford Courant, a prestigious honor that has volunteers with the organization ecstatic.
âItâs nice to get recognition for all our hard work and know that people really care,â said Tricia Hul, a member of the guildâs board of directors who also designs, builds and paints sets for the shows. âItâs really gratifying.â
Hul attended the reception in Hartford for the award.
âWe beat out Little Theatre in Manchester and Hole in the Wall Theater in New Britain,â Hul said.
âWe have great respect for these theaters and itâs awesome to be number one because they are so good,â said Victor Funderburk, the guildâs president and artistic director.
The guild stages six to eight productions a year at the Burton Leavitt Theatre on Main Street in downtown Willimantic.
âWe offer an incredible variety of theater for the community,â Funderburk said.
The guild produces plays, comedies, dramas and musicals â many for families, but some for more mature audiences, Hul said.
âWe are also really developing our childrenâs program,â Hul said. âWe have our upcoming childrenâs show âMadagascarâ with 28 kids total.â
Set design and costumes are also prioritized at the theater.
âWe actually make a lot of our own costumes,â Funderburk said. âA lot of other community theaters rent them.â
As for set design, âwe have an incredible bunch of volunteers who are so skilled and dedicated,â Funderburk said.
Often, a little bit of extra work on the set can translate into a surprise for the audience.
âFor the production of âInto the Woods,â we painted a door as part of the wall,â Hul said. âThe audience was surprised when the door was pulled out and that was really satisfying.â
The audience is also given great consideration at the theater.
According to Funderburk, comment cards are given out and each one is always read.
The audience is also surveyed frequently and was recently polled for preferred start times, he said.
For Funderburk, who is the Democratic mayoral candidate for Windham this year, one of the most satisfying parts of being involved in theater is the audienceâs reaction.
During âThe Diary of Anne Frank,â the audience was so moved they were brought to tears, he said.
Hul said the recent production of âThe Full Montyâ was so well-received that people actually came twice.
âA lot of people saw it on Broadwayâ Funderburk said. âBut they liked ours better because it was more intimate. You are closer to the actors and stage in our theater and that allows you to connect easier than when you see it on Broadway.â
The theater has 192 seats and 36 feet to the back wall, meaning everybody is close, according to Funderburk.
âA lot of communities donât have what we have,â he said. âFor a town this size, we have a nice theater.â
Receiving this award means a lot to everyone who has worked hard at the guild.
âIt feels good to have put the effort in and be recognized,â said scenic artist Vera Gray.
âThis award will help us energize and continue to be even better,â Funderburk said, âItâs really motivating.â
For more information, call the Windham Theatre Guild at 860-423-2245 or visit www.windhamtheatreguild.org.