The intimate play sold out its four-show run

PASO ROBLES — Wine Country Theatre premiered its first reader’s theater production with Lee Blessing’s “Eleemosynary.” The three-woman show delves into the relationships between three generations in one family. 

The shows, which took place on Friday, April 5, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 6, at 2 and 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, April 7, at 2 p.m.; sold out. Atascadero News/Paso Robles Press was invited to the Saturday evening show to watch this story about family and words unfold in person.


“I did this play because I saw it [‘Eleemosynary’] done as a reader’s theater show, and it has always stuck out in my mind. So that was, I don’t know, eight years ago, maybe. Then recently, I saw it again, like maybe last summer,” said director and Wine Country Theatre’s founder Cynthia Anthony.

The production took place at a private residence in Atascadero with a 24-seat theatre on the property. This gave audiences an up-close-and-personal experience as the production unfolded, telling the stories of mothers and their daughters and vice versa.

“I did this same play, same role, last year, and I wondered how it would be to do it again with two different cast members with me, and it’s been really good,” said actress Rosh Wright, who played the family’s matriarch, Dorthea. “Not only is this play different every night, as every play is, but it’s different with three different people, so like a brand new play almost.”

It was Wright’s first time on stage with Wine Country Theatre, but she stated that she’d seen lots of its performances in the past. Olga Siebrass-Pauls returned to the theatre company to play Echo after years away, and just like Wright, this wasn’t Siebrass-Pauls’ first time working on a reader’s theater-style production.

“I’ve actually worked at other theaters and done reader’s theater programs, so it is something I’m familiar with,” she said. “It’s always interesting because, obviously, with reader’s theater, you’re exploring less common plays, and you’re kind of experiencing new material that you normally wouldn’t experience on a main stage, full production, play.”

The reader’s theater format is very bare-bones, with nondescript sets and simple costumes and the actors holding the scripts in their hands throughout. Even so, the actresses on stage nailed their character work, staging, and the emotion that goes into every line of Blessing’s heartwarming and heart-wrenching story. And then moments of humor lit up the theater in laughter.

“I think it [reader’s theater] is a great way to introduce people to new playwrights, and Lee Blessing is probably one of the most famous living American playwrights right now,” Anthony said. “He’s absolutely prolific. His plays are outstanding. Presented all over the world. ‘Eleemosynary is popular and has been at regional theaters, universities, and colleges because it’s three outstanding roles for women.”

Lindsey Villanueva-Taylor, who played Artie, Echo’s mother and Dorthea’s daughter, stepped into the show at the last minute to replace the original actress who had to leave the production. She had about four rehearsals with the script before the company moved into the theater. 

“In one 90-minute, one-act [show], we go through such a range of emotions and the beautiful story, and complex story that it was very cool to see our actors [do], and for myself, it was cool to see us make that ride and take that journey. I’ve never read a show like this,” said Villanueva-Taylor. “As actors and in our script, there is so much packed into 90 minutes, and we have to get all of that out. Lee Blessing was a beautiful, beautiful writer.”

Currently, Wine Country Theatre doesn’t have enough funding to mount multiple full-production shows throughout the year, so Anthony says reader’s theater is the perfect way to bring more productions to the area and that she believes there’s a place for more reader’s theater in Wine Country Theatre’s future.

“Now is the payoff for the actors, for the producers, for the board members, and the donors, and the audience members that have been able to come and see it,” added Anthony.

Coming next from Wine Country Theatre will be “Charlotte’s Web” in June and Rodgers & Hammerstein’s “Cinderella” in August. 

To find out about upcoming auditions for both shows or learn more about Wine Country Theatre, go to

Featured Image: (From left) Rosh Wright as Dorthea Westcott, Olga Siebrass-Pauls as Echo, and Lindsey Villanueva-Taylor as Artie are in Wine Country Theatre’s production of “Eleemosynary.” Photo provided by Wine Country Theatre.