British baritone Benjamin Luxon – whom some may know of as one of the most famous Sons of Cornwall – is coming home! This June, Luxon will play the leading role of Stage Manager in “Our Town” while directing his American amateur troupe The Sandisfield Players in seven performances at the Minack Theatre.
Throughout the 1970’s and 80’s Luxon performed as a leading baritone with the world’s most important orchestras and conductors and at major opera houses around the globe, making Benjamin Luxon a household name in the international world of classical music. In 1986, he was honored with a CBE for his service to British music.
One evening in 1990, Luxon suffered sudden and severe hearing loss while onstage. In time with the assistance of hearing aids he was able to continue performing intermittently, but by 1993 his inability to hear forced him to leave the stage. For a time he offered master classes and took up opera stage directing, but even this became too difficult.
In 2002 Luxon re-evaluated his life. He married his American love, Susan Crofut, and moved to the US to settle in the quiet rural hill town of Sandisfield in the Southern Berkshires of Massachusetts. He received a cochlear implant in 2008, and though he could no longer sing (due to permanent damage to his sense of pitch), he was able to return to his two great passions – theatre and performance – now in the roles of actor and director. His varied roles have included the narrator in Stravinsky’s “Soldiers Tale;” the ghost and gravedigger in Hamlet; and King Lear. He also played a comic role in a production of “Cindy Bella”- a take off of the opera Cinderella, directed by Irina Brook at Shakespeare and Company in Lenox, Massachusetts.
The role of director was not something Luxon sought. Rather, it found him. In 2012, Luxon’s adopted town of Sandisfield invited him to create a play to commemorate the town’s 250th anniversary at the local Arts Center.
Luxon accepted the task, cajoling a group of twenty friends and neighbors to form his cast and building a play about the town’s quirky and fascinating history. The performance was so successful that the group formalized into a dedicated amateur company called The Sandisfield Players, under Luxon’s direction. The ‘Players’ (as they are referred to by the locals) went on to perform the great American classic “Our Town” by Thornton Wilder, “Under Milk Wood” by Dylan Thomas, multiple Shakespeare extracts, “A Christmas Carol” by Dickens, and their own rendition of “Hansel and Gretel.”
Benjamin Luxon recently visited his native home of Cornwall and coincidentally found himself in conversation with the director of the Minack Theatre – one of Europe’s most renowned open-air theaters built into the cliffs at the southern tip of England, which presents a 22-week season between April and October of different theatrical works.
The Minack director invited Luxon to bring his Sandisfield Players to perform “Our Town” on the celebrated stage.
And so, at age 79, Benjamin Luxon will return to his native Cornwall as both director and the leading-role in ‘Our Town,’ a quintessentially American play which will run for seven performances during the last week of June 2016. What better way for the proud people of Cornwall to celebrate one of their most beloved sons!