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Northern Stage Names New Director

Carol Dunne, photographed on July 6, 2009, has been named the new artistic director at Northern Stage in White River Junction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson)

Carol Dunne, photographed on July 6, 2009, has been named the new artistic director at Northern Stage in White River Junction. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Purchase photo reprints »

A veteran Upper Valley stage director and Dartmouth College theater instructor will take over the artistic reins at Northern Stage as the White River Junction theater company’s new artistic director.

Carol Dunne, who has led the New London Barn Playhouse as artistic director for the last five seasons, will step into the same role at Northern Stage, the company announced yesterday. The Etna resident will serve on a part-time basis for the rest of this season, balancing her duties at the Barn Playhouse and at Dartmouth, and full-time starting in the fall.

Since moving to the Upper Valley in 2004, Dunne has acted in several Northern Stage shows, and last month directed its production of The Importance of Being Earnest.

“Northern Stage became a big part of my life in the Upper Valley as an actress quite quickly,” Dunne said in an interview yesterday. “And the reason I kept going back and working there, is it kind of astounded me. The audience interaction and the board level of interest and support I found quite exciting. … The staff of Northern Stage, I find incredibly dedicated and devoted. They take the theater personally. It’s not a job, it’s a passion.”

Dunne steps into her new role at Northern Stage after the midseason departure of company founder Brooke Ciardelli late last fall. Ciardelli and Northern Stage said it was by mutual agreement.

Ciardelli and Dunne were classmates at Darien High School in Connecticut, and Dunne said Ciardelli quickly brought her into the Northern Stage fold after she relocated to the area.

“The first thing I have to do is to acknowledge that she built a pretty extraordinary theater company,” Dunne said of Ciardelli. “I have tremendous respect for her for that.”

Regarding the Barn Playhouse, Dunne said she inherited a theater company that was in transition, following the death of longtime director Norman Leger, and was in financial duress. Her approach in directing the company was one of “calm focus,” she said.

“When you go through a big transition, as Northern Stage just has, you need to step back and focus on the future,” Dunne said. “With the Barn, we looked at the past, a really brilliant past, and we got together and we said, What can be the future? And I will certainly try and do that at Northern Stage also. It has been a brilliant 16 years. My job is, what’s going to be the next 10-year vision?”

In addition to the appointment of Dunne, the company also announced yesterday the hiring of Eric Bunge, co-founder of the Commonweal Theater Company in Lanesboro, Minn., as managing director. The board hired Bunge at Dunne’s suggestion, as the two had worked together to improve the financial standing of the New London Barn Playhouse.

“He has very, very deep experience in the functions that are normally associated with a managing director of a theater, including organizing theaters, building and improving theaters physically, development, which is a critical area of growth, budgeting … This is a man who has had a long experience in all of those functions of theater, including the art of theater,” said Stuart Johnson, chairman of Northern Stage’s board.

In the news release announcing the hiring of Dunne and Bunge, Northern Stage also indicated that Executive Director Russell Maitland, who was hired at the beginning of the season, had “suggested that his tenure be considered transitional.”

Asked for a clarification yesterday, Johnson said that, “Technically, (Maitland) has left Northern Stage, but he is continuing to attend to relatively minor responsibilities that he wanted to make sure were in place before he left.”

The writer can be reached at kbryan@vnews.com, or 603-727-3242.