The Buxton-Hollis Dorcas Society knows a lot about tradition.

The group has produced a two-act play, “The Old Peabody Pew,” written by children’s author Kate Douglas Wiggin, every year since 1916. Marking its 90th anniversary, “The Old Peabody Pew” takes the stage at 7 p.m. on Sunday at the Tory Hill Church, at the intersection of routes 202 and 112 in Buxton.

The two-act play is a romance, in which Justin Peabody returns nearly penniless years after seeking his fortune to win the heart of a former flame, Nancy Wentworth.

Justin went west to Detroit, Mich., to seek a fortune, while the misfortune of passing years left Nancy unmarried. But Justin, earning a meager $60 a month, saved $200 for furniture and returns home for his love.

“It’s a love story,” said the play’s director, Kathy Miles. “The humor in it is timeless,” she said.

“He pulls himself up by the bootstraps and comes back to marry even though he doesn’t have a dime,” Miles said.

Buxton’s Tory Hill Church was the setting that Wiggin, who summered nearby, chose for the play. There in the play, Nancy accepts her suitor ‘s proposal to marry and to live in Detroit, “We’ll come back every summer to sit in the dear old Peabody Pew,” they vowed.

Timothy Cook and Lynn Cummings again play the leads, which they’ve done for a decade. Once a couple off stage, Cook and Cummings continue to fill the leading roles although they are divorced.

Cummings said the two roles had been traditionally played by a married couple. “We both love doing it,” Cummings said. “We both know the lines.”

Cummings and Cook have stayed good friends. “It’s bigger than us,” Cook said about the Peabody performance.

In Act I, the ladies of the church gossip while sewing a carpet for the church. “The women pick on me,” Cook said.

The cast includes Jane Piecuch as Mrs. Burbank; Linda Caouette as Lobelia; Sharon House as Mrs. Miller; Janice Flint as Mrs. Sargent; Carolyn Vail as Maria Sharp; Barbara Cole as Mrs. Baxter; 11-year-old Makayla Frost as Sally Bixby; and Kathy Miles as Widow Buzzell.

Andrea Rosenberg is organist and Susan Williams is the prompter.

And Teivy Manuel, 89, will be the narrator, which she has done for 25 years, including one performance in Brunswick.

“I love it, I really do,” Manuel said.

Many in the cast have played the same roles for years. Vail has played Maria for 12 years. “She’s right straight to the point – no frills,” Vail described the character she portrays.

Vail continues a family tradition. “My mother did it for 25 years,” she said.

As a fundraiser for the Dorcas Society, Wiggin adapted the play from her book by the same title. The Bixby role was added later by Wiggin as a gift for Kate Douglas (Libby) Mason, her namesake and a neighbor’s daughter.

Mason passed the part on to her daughter, Barbara Anderson. Although Anderson once was a cast member, she never played Bixby. But Anderson’s daughter and granddaughter have in the past.

Anderson selects the young actress to play the Bixby role each year and House’s four granddaughters have been picked in recent years. Frost, this year’s Bixby, is a student at the Snow School in Fryeburg. Three cousins have also played Bixby. They are Sydney Roy, a student at the University of Southern Maine; Andrea Roy, a sophomore at Bonny Eagle High School; and Morgan Roy, an eighth grade student at Bonny Eagle Middle School.

With its antique wooden pews, the interior of the church hasn’t changed much since Wiggin’s day. And the play is presented in much the same fashion as Wiggin wrote it.

All the cast members are originally from Buxton or Hollis. “I have a fantastic cast,” Miles said. “We’ve become one big family.”

Shortly before the play, homemade cookies and cider will be served, and the Rev. Karen Christensen, pastor of the church, will lead caroling.

Tickets are $3 each; children, $1.50.

Cutline (Peabody pew 4) lays Mrs. Miller in the play. Cutline (Peabody pew 6) Buxton.Cutline (Peabody pew 11)


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