Arts & Leisure

What if you only had one hundred days?

GRACE EXPERIENCE AND Stephen Shore star in “Hundred Days” by Abigail and Shaun Bengson. Middlebury Acting Company will present this uplifting and challenging love story, directed by Margo Whitcomb and accompanied by a live band of Middlebury College students and alums at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater, April 4-7. INDEPENDENT PHOTO / STEVE JAMES

As the snow melts away and the early bulbs push through the crystalized dirt, we’re given a performance by the Middlebury Acting Company to help us process a question that is spring eternal: How do we make the most of the time that we have?

This is the fundamental question that creators Abigail and Shaun Bengson explore in “Hundred Days” — “an uncensored, exhilarating and heartrending true story about embracing uncertainty, taking a leap and loving as if you only had 100 days to live,” as described on the website hundreddays.org. Grace Experience and Stephen Shore star in the theatrical concert that will take the stage of the Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, April 4-7.

“There’s a lot of singing,” Shore said in a recent interview alongside Experience — his partner on and off the stage. 

“It’s especially touching and special to work on this piece together,” Experience added, not only because she’s acting a love story with someone she actually loves, but also to a place she loves. “The play is set in Queens and I have so many wonderful memories in Queens… there’s a line in a song: ‘I’ll sing the glorias, the lights over Astoria’ — that gets me every time.” 

GRACE EXPERIENCE & STEPHEN SHORE

“The premise is two individuals finding each other and realizing they are soulmates,” Shore explained. “It’s earth shattering for them… and the stakes are high. What if you only had 100 days to live? How would you spend that time? It can be terrifying and exhilarating… it’s like being at the top of a rollercoaster about to dive down — exhilarating, but worried what can happen?”

“Yes, there is terror in the uncertainty,” echoed Experience, who grew up in Lincoln and is the daughter of novelist Chris Bohjalian and artist Victoria Blewer, who reside in Weybridge. “The beautiful thing about this performance is that it ends with joy and love. That’s what makes this doable.”

“As originally conceived, the creators referred to it as a theatrical concert,” explained Margo Whitcomb, director of the MACo production of “Hundred Days.” “That’s absolutely right. The Bengsons are performers not actors. They did not attempt to live the narrative, to embody the narrative. It was much more presentational and narrated; and still incredibly dynamic and interesting.”

For the Middlebury stage, Whitcomb is trying to capitalize on Experience and Shore’s “equal talents as actors as much as musicians,” she said. “I’m trying to have them embody the piece.”

Experience and Shore, who play Abigail and Shaun Bengson, respectively, are up for the challenge.

“They really sing their hearts out and leave everything on the floor,” said Shore, who also plays guitar on stage. “They are totally vulnerable to each other. That forces you to re-examine… Am I living my life in a way I’m happy with? Are there things I can do right now to bring more joy? What do I want to say before I’m gone? What’s special about this performance is that it’s not a solo piece; it’s two people telling their story.”

“It’s a rock concert; it’s a love story,” Experience shared. “There is gorgeous poetry in the writing. Viewers can expect to be on their feet dancing — maybe crying a little — and then dancing again.”

“I do feel like at this moment, having come through the pandemic, living with so many threats to our safety and sense of security surrounding us every day — within all of us, we all have a much more acute sense of how fragile life is,” Whitcomb said. “I tap into that.

“In [Abigail and Shaun’s] case, it’s daring to love someone; and the fear of it not being sustained for whatever reason,” continued Whitcomb, who also teaches acting at the University of Vermont. “I think everyone can relate to that. The piece is about walking through that fear and coming out the other side. It is very life affirming; it is not a tragedy. As the last song says, ‘What else can we do?’ This play is a celebration of the commitment to live, love and risk.”

MIDDLEBURY COLLEGE STUDENTS and alums Madison Middleton, Xander Bowles, Chelsea Robinson, Kai Fukuda and Jonathan March under the direction of Ronnie Romano, will accompany Grace Experience and Stephen Shore in Middlebury Acting Company’s production of ”Hundred Days” by Abigail and Shaun Bengson. The show will be performed April 4-7, at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury.
INDEPENDENT PHOTOS / STEVE JAMES

Whitcomb is assisted by Sarah Pope (hey, it’s my coworker here at the Addison Independent!). Musical director Ronnie Romano is orchestrating a live band for the show featuring Middlebury College students and alums Madison Middleton, Xander Bowles, Chelsea Robinson, Kai Fukuda and Jonathan March.

Performances will be held at Town Hall Theater in Middlebury, April 4-6, at 7:30 p.m., and April 7, at 2 p.m. Tickets cost $33-$44. For tickets and more info call 802-382-9222 or visit townhalltheater.org. 

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