MANCHESTER – What does it take to go from center stage in family soirees to the public limelight?
The Levis family of Manchester has found the key to success on that front.
Siblings Tajlei, Melissa, Oliver and Max Levis are entrepreneurs with careers as a playwright, musician, farmer and innkeeper/scholar. Years of creative energy staging plays in the family living room seem to have paid off for the quartet.
Tajlei splits her time between New York and the Green Mountains. Recently she completed work on “Green Acres,” the Broadway-bound recreation of the 1960s TV sitcom starring Eddie Albert and Eva Gabor. Tajlei, a lawyer by training who is now a playwright, won success with the 1996 production of “A Time to Be Born,” and entry into the New York Fringe Festival. Later, she developed “Glimpses of the Moon,” performed at The Algonquin for two years.
Tajlei cites the influence of her mother, the late Georgette Levis, in her development.
“She was always encouraging us to write stories and create productions.”
No doubt her late aunt, playwright Wendy Wassertein, contributed to the creative influence of the family.
Tajlei’s latest endeavor was creating a play for the family inn, The Wilburton in Manchester, for their murder mystery weekend. It was a sold-out success for the inn.
“I write a play for one night. This one was set in WWII in a progressive boarding school,” she explained. The entire family joins in the festivities for the weekend. “It is fun working with my family.”
For the past 10 years, Melissa has made her talent for songwriting a business with Moey’s Music Party. The interactive performance entertains fans of all ages. Melissa, an off-Broadway lyricist, has spent more than 20 years in New York. She comes to the Wilburton with the sense of balancing her New York duties with her responsibilities at the family inn.
Melissa is turning her passion to the inn. She has expanded the specialty weekends such as the murder mystery event to include new events such as the “doggie extravaganza” at Halloween, encouraging pet owners and their favorite four-legged creatures to celebrate the spooky holiday with costumes and style. It is both a personal passion and one that sparks the future of the inn.
One event that attendees rave about is the summer farm-to-table events held each week. Enter sibling Oliver, proprietor of Earth Sky Time Farm, an organic community farm located on the family homestead not far from the inn. With five acres under production and an equal number of greenhouses, Oliver, his wife Bonnie, and a crew of 10 to 12 people bring fresh veggies and eggs to market during the growing season. In 2010 they added bread to the available inventory, later building a brick oven on site for the sunflower levain, multigrain sourdough and olive rosemary loaves sought by consumers.
Oliver also echoes the joy of working with his family and the larger audience that enjoys the farm’s produce. Patrons flock to the farm’s appearances at local farmers markets in Dorset, Manchester, Londonderry and Ludlow. When the growing seasons close, Oliver and family turn the greenhouses over to the production of greens for sale along with the bread at the weekly Dorset market. And to not miss a beat, they add veggie burgers, hummus, pesto and other valued products for sale at local specialty shops and regional co-ops throughout the region. Oliver also adds in some time to snowboard on the nearby mountains when he is out on his delivery chores.
Brother Max can be seen at the desk at the Wilburton finalizing the details of weddings. Shortly, he will resume his post-graduate degree studies in Europe.
The four siblings — Tajlei, Melissa, Oliver and Max — are clearly in sync with one another. As Melissa summed it up: “We are a success as a family. The Wilburton Inn is a family inn, the collaboration of four siblings.”
The legacy of their mother, Georgette, lives on through her children.