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Welles celebration kicks off in Woodstock

WOODSTOCK – Paul Bach has a bookshelf of Orson Welles titles back home. Friday night, he got to put a face to some of the authors' names.

The teacher at a Potterville, Michigan, high school settled in a crowded Stage Left Cafe Friday night for the kickoff event of Woodstock Celebrates' 80th anniversary celebration of Welles' directorial debut, which Welles made at the Woodstock Opera House.

Just before 7 p.m., Bach was looking forward to hearing the first speaker of the weekend, Todd Tarbox – though he was yet to read Tarbox's "Orson Welles and Roger Hill: A Friendship in Three Acts." The book details the relationship Welles had with Tarbox's grandfather, Hill, who mentored a young Welles at the Todd School for Boys in Woodstock.

Bach said he'd likely score a copy by the end of the weekend.

"All the big names endorse it," he said.

Bach, who traveled for hours from his home outside Lansing, Michigan, didn't make the longest trek of any enthusiast for the weekend. Erik Van Beuzekom came from Chimacum, Washington.

Van Beuzekom operates a small theater company and puts on a one-man show on Welles, which includes about 20 script pages on his time at the Todd School. He traveled two days by train.

"For me ... it's kind of like a trip to Mecca," Van Beuzekom said.

He added that he'd met Tarbox and some other Welles experts Thursday night for drinks, which was itself worth the trip.

Friday night, a panel of Welles experts joined Tarbox on stage after his presentation. The night concluded with 1920s- and 1930s-era music.

Events move to the Woodstock Opera House on Saturday, with panel discussions set for 9:30 a.m. to noon and 2:30 to 5 p.m. From 8 to 10 p.m., several Welles radio programs will be re-enacted, including his famous "War of the Worlds."

"The fact that he was on that stage in 1934 and we're going to do a recreation of his most famous radio broadcast on that stage is ... it's hard to put into words," said Peter Gill, of Woodstock Celebrates. "It's going to be cool."

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