Beckwith Theatre teams with area wineries

The Beckwith Theatre Company will be popping the cork off its 2016 season — as well as some bottles of delicious, locally made wines — Friday.

The Dowagiac community theater is partnering with Benton Harbor’s 12 Corners Winery for the upcoming premiere of its first play of the year, “Harvey.”

Theater volunteers will be serving free glasses of the 12 Corners wine to members of the audience over the age of 21 that night, with representatives of the winery also on hand to talk about their products and tasting hours.

12 Corners Winery will be the first of several such companies sponsoring opening nights at the Beckwith throughout the upcoming season. Other wineries will include: Lazy Ballerina Winery, of St. Joseph; Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery, of Mattawan; Domaine Berrien Cellars, of Berrien Springs; Vineyard 2121, of Benton Harbor; and Fenn Valley Vineyards, of Fennville.

Opening night audiences at Beckwith are used to enjoying free wine to enjoy during the show, as the theater has been serving the adult beverage and refreshments for premieres for the last several years as a way to build attendance numbers and to enhance the theater experience, said Richard Frantz, with Beckwith. While in the past volunteers would purchase store bought bottles to serve, Frantz and others with the theater decided to reach out to area wineries to see if they would be interested in sponsoring these opening shows.

“Why should we be using wines from California when we could be using local ones instead,” Frantz said. “A lot of the wineries we contacted thought it was a great idea. …These wines are our favorites anyway, so it worked out perfectly.”

The theater will be purchasing the wines to serve to audiences, though the costs will be offset by sponsorships from the participating winery, Frantz said. While theater volunteers will be the ones serving the beverages to audiences, winery employees will be on hand to give out additional information about their products — making the partnership a win-win for both parties, Frantz said.

“They (the wineries) are hoping to appeal to some people they might not normally publicize to,” Frantz said.

The enhanced opening nights are just one of several additions to the upcoming theater season. Later this year, Beckwith will produce a stage reading of David Mamet’s Pulitzer Prize winning “Glengarry Glen Ross,” as well as play with a cast of local high school students, Frantz said.

“Harvey” premieres at 7:30 p.m. Friday. For tickets or additional information, contact Beckwith at (269) 782-7653.

The 2016 Beckwith season and sponsors include:

• “Harvey,” April 1— 12 Corners Winery of Benton Harbor

• “Closer,” May 20 — Lazy Ballerina Winery of St. Joseph

• “The Foreigner,” July 8 — Cody Kresta Vineyard and Winery of Mattawan

• “Over the River and Through the Woods,” Aug. 19 — Domaine Berrien Cellars of Berrien Springs

• “Rent,” Sept. 30 — Vineyard 2121 of Benton Harbor

• “Blithe Spirit,” Nov. 11 — Fenn Valley Vineyards of Fennville

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