Entertainment Highlights: Anais Mitchell Workshops Her ‘Hadestown’ Song Cycle at Dartmouth
Vermont-raised singer-songwriterAnais Mitchell is to perform at Dartmouth College's Hopkins Center on July 24, 2014, at 8 p.m. (Courtesy photograph)
Chelsea co-director Kailie Larkin encourages the actors during intermission at a July 2013 performance in Tunbridge, Vt. The "Get Thee To The Funnery!" Shakespeare Program is to perform "Tempest" on Friday and Saturday, July 25 and July 26, 2014, in Tunbridge. (Geoff Hansen photograph)
The cast of the Chandler Center for the Arts’ production of "Last Summer at Bluefish" Cove rehearse a scene. A performance of Jane Chambers’ play closes out the Vermont Pride Theater Festival Sunday night at 7.
During her concert tonight at Dartmouth’s Moore Theatre, Vermont-bred singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell expects to perform a few songs from Hadestown, her folk/rock opera that re-imagines the Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridyce, with her longtime collaborator Michael Chorney.
Just not the full package, not yet.
“It’s just me on stage with Michael (on guitar), playing anything I want,” the 33-year-old Mitchell said on the eve of her current concert tour, which will end at the Newport (R.I.) Folk Festival on Friday. “It isn’t focused on a particular batch of songs.”
She won’t keep listeners waiting long for Hadestown : After Newport, Mitchell will spend three weeks at Dartmouth in residency with the New York Theatre Workshop, building toward an Aug. 16 “work-in-progress” performance in the college’s Warner Bentley Theater. The workshop is the latest stop in the opera’s long journey.
“Hadestown has been such an odyssey,” Mitchell said. “It all started eight years ago in Vermont with do-it-yourself theater projects around Vermont where friends were playing the different characters. Then came the album (in 2010, with folk outlaws Greg Brown and Ani DiFranco singing the roles of craven industrialist Hades and his wife Persephone), and the tour, where it became almost like a radio novella. We’d reach out to local singers: ‘New York sings Hadestown!’ ‘Virginia sings Hadestown!’ It was always a pretty wild scene. It was really fun. We met a lot of people.”
Then life and other work interrupted Hadestown for a while. With Jefferson Hamer, one of two members of the string band The Murphy Beds, Mitchell explored the traditional British folk songs that Harvard’s James Francis Child collected in the 1800s, and turned seven of them into an album of duets, Child Ballads, which came out in the spring of 2013.
And just about a year ago, Mitchell gave birth to Ramona, her daughter with husband Noah Hahn. Within five months, Ramona was joining Mitchell on a tour of the Midwest, then a tour of England that culminated in Mitchell and Hamer singing, during the BBC Folk Awards at Royal Albert Hall, Willie of Winsbury, the ballad that won Traditional Track of the Year.
Not that Hadestown went away altogether. Mitchell worked on six new songs and began talking with New York Theatre Workshop director Rachel Chavkin, a two-time Obie Award winner for her off-Broadway work, about staging the opera. After considering a variety of locations and partnerships, including Vassar College, they settled on Dartmouth, where the workshop often test-drives works for the stage.
“It’s almost random that the workshop is so close to where I’m from,” said Mitchell, who now lives in Vermont’s Northeast Kingdom. “(Chavkin) had a premonition that (the Dartmouth workshop) might be the right program for the show.”
First, Mitchell needed to make sure that those new songs fit.
“It’s been tricky,” she said, “to deepen the story without taking it to too literal a place.”
The next place for Hadestown , after the Warner Bentley Theater, depends on how it plays out here. Chavkin’s last musical project, Dave Malloy’s electro-pop opera Natasha, Pierre, and the Great Comet of 1812 , won raves from New York critics during its five-month run at The Kazino on West 45th Street late in 2013 and early in 2014.
Mitchell insists she isn’t looking that far ahead.
“It’s a whole ‘nother kind of work from what I’m used to,” she said. “Theater is its own world. It has its own customs, people on the team developing the show. This is a whole new chapter.”
Anais Mitchell and Michael Chorney will perform a concert tonight at 8 in Moore Theatre at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center; tickets cost $9 to $18. The New York Theatre Workshop will perform Hadestown on Aug. 16 at 8 p.m. in the Hopkins Center’s Warner Bentley Theater, with tickets costing $6.50 to $13 . For more information about tonight’s concert, and about the upcoming New York Theater Workshop treatment of her Hadestown cycle of songs, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.
Drawing on the sheet-music collection of sculptor Augustus Saint-Gaudens, the trio of tenors Peter Furlong, Jeffrey Hartman and Paolo Buffagni will sing works of Verdi, Mozart, Bizet, Puccini and more, with Elizabeth Blood accompanying them on piano, on Sunday afternoon at 2 at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. Admission is included in the price to enter the historic site. For more information, visit nps.gov/saga/planyourvisit/summer-concerts.htm.
∎ Many of Vermont Public Radio’s on-air personalities, led by former Etna resident Willem Lange, will venture into the fresh air (lower-case) during the network’s annual picnic for listeners on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Lareau Farm Inn in Waitsfield, Vt. In addition to music performances from VPR’s All the Traditions host Robert Resnik teaming with Barbara Wager, from the Starline Rhythm Boys, the entertainment will include a storytelling slam, in the style of the Moth Radio Hour, under which VPR is inviting listeners to hold forth on the theme, “You Know You Live in Vermont When ...” Admission to the picnic is free, and most of the festivities will take place under a tent in case of rain or strong sun.
∎ The sixth annual Bookstock literary festival begins on Friday at 9 with a used book sale on the Woodstock Green, and a sale of rare and vintage tomes at Norman Williams Public Library. Saturday, the town turns into a theme park of novelists, among them Anita Diamant (The Red Tent), and poets, including former U.S. laureates Louise Gluck and Charles Simic. And at 1 on Sunday afternoon, Woodstock movie director Anne Macksoud provides a finishing kick by screening her documentary The Wisdom to Survive at the Town Hall Theater. Full information about the festival is at bookstockvt.org.
As the bridge between its long productions of Spamalot and Kiss Me Kate, the New London Barn Playhouse will stage six showings of Over the Pub, a Tom Dudzick comedy about an Irish family at odds with a strict nun. The run begins on Wednesday with shows at 2 p.m. and 7:30, and continues through 7:30 stagings on July 31, Aug. 1 and Aug. 2 and a 5 p.m. finale on Aug. 3. For tickets ($24.50 to $34) and more information, visit nlbarn.org.
∎ Singer-songwriter Iris DeMent brings her deceptively girlish voice and her deep well of country-folk ballads, laments and word-paintings to Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Aug. 3, a week from this Sunday, at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $30. For more information, visit tupelohallvermont.com.
∎ Don’t worry if you missed the screenings of movie director Jay Craven’s Northern Borders in Newbury Vt., last weekend: The Depression-era drama starring Bruce Dern and Genevieve Bujold, which Craven shot in New Hampshire and Vermont, will return to the Upper Valley twice in August. Screenings are scheduled for 7:30 p.m. on the 16th at the Claremont Opera House and at 7:30 the night of the 23rd at Lebanon’s First Congregational Church. For more information, including the full tour schedule, visit kingdomcounty.org/our_films/northern_borders.php.
∎ As soon as the clock struck noon on Monday, the phones at the Lebanon Opera House box office were ringing off the hook with opera-house members calling to reserve tickets to Richard Thompson’s solo acoustic concert on Oct. 14. Members of the general public who don’t want to wait for their first shot at ordering tickets this Friday at noon can snap up seats by making a donation to the opera house, either visiting the box office in City Hall, calling 603-448-0400, or going online at lebanonoperahouse.org.
For its 13th Summer Shakespeare Spectacular, Chelsea’s Get Thee to the Funnery troupe of actors ages 13 to 18 will perform The Tempest this weekend outside the Tunbridge School. Shows are Friday night at 6 and Saturday afternoon at 4; in the event of rain, the production will move to the Chelsea Town Hall. Donations to the performances go toward the troupe’s scholarship program. For more information, visit thechelseafunnery.com.
∎ The Vermont Pride Theater Festival runs a second weekend at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, starting Friday night at 7:30 with an encore performance of the Douglas Carter Beane comedy The Little Dog Laughed, under the direction of Richard Waterhouse of Newbury, Vt. Saturday night at 7:30, David Zak will direct his new adaptation of the Will Fellows book Farm Boys, based on interviews of dozens of men who grew up gay in the rural Midwest. The festival concludes on Sunday night at 7 with Jeanne Beckwith directing a performance of the Jane Chambers play Last Summer at Bluefish Cove, in which a straight woman encounters a community of lesbians. Advance tickets cost $12 to $17, and tickets at the door are $15 to $20. For the price of two tickets, buyers qualify for a Pride Pass valid for any three admissions. For more information, visit chandler-arts.org/event.php?event=298.
∎ In the homestretch-run of its production of Spamalot, the musical that Eric Idle distilled from the movie Monty Python and the Holy Grail, the New London Barn Playhouse will stage showings at 7:30 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night, then lower the curtain after a 5 p.m. performance on Sunday. For tickets ($19.50 to $40) and more information, visit nlbarn.org
∎ After all those years that Julie Harris played poet Emily Dickinson in playwright William Luce’s one-woman show The Belle of Amherst, it’s hard to imagine anyone else in the role. On Saturday night at 7 at the Mulburn Inn in Bethlehem, N.H., Granite State-bred actress Renee Bucciarelli will put her stamp on the elusive character, whom she’s been playing in the Pacific Northwest, where she now lives. For tickets ($20 to $24) and more information, visit bethlehemcolonialtheatre.org.
∎ Starting on Wednesday night at 7 at Damon Hall, Hartland Community Arts will hold open auditions for its fall production of Thornton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play Our Town. Auditions will continue next Thursday and Friday for the play, which will run Oct. 17, 18, 24, 25 and 26 at Damon Hall.
The Twangtown Paramours, a ka the husband-and-wife team of Mike Lewis and Marybeth Zamer, will perform their Americana repertoire at noon today on the green in Woodstock, in week four of the Pentangle Arts series of admission-free brown-bag concerts. If it rains, the concert will move into the nearby Town Hall Theatre.
∎ The Thursdays in the Park series for families continues this afternoon at noon at Lebanon’s Colburn Park, with a concert of children’s music by Judy Pancoast.
∎ America’s Most Wanted will perform folk and country on the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30, in week six of the Hartford Parks & Recreation Department’s series of summer concerts.
∎ The Defibulators will play country and rock on the bandstand at Colburn Park in Lebanon as part of the city’s Front Porch Series.
∎ The versatile quintet Max Creek comes to Tupelo Music Hall in White River Junction on Friday night at 8, to perform its blend of rock, jazz, reggae, folk and bluegrass. Tickets cost $22. For more information, visit tupelohallvermont.com.
∎ The Lyra Summer Workshop series of public concerts at Chandler Music Hall continues Monday night at 7:30 with a performance by guest pianist Michael Brown and on Tuesday night at 7:30 with cellist Nathan Vickery. Tickets cost $10 to $15. For more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.
∎ The Upper Valley Community Band returns to Lebanon’s Colburn Park on Monday night at 7.
∎ As a benefit for Stagecoach Transportation, Gifford Medical Center and the White River Valley Chamber of Commerce will cook and serve a by-donation barbecue during the weekly Community Concert at Gifford Park on Tuesday night at 6. The Dave Keller Band will play its “smooth new jazz.”
∎ The East Bay Jazz Ensemble will swing on the green in Canaan at 7 on Tuesday night.
∎ The Squids will perform a blend of R&B, blues, jazz, Latin rhythms, rock and country on the Ben Mere Bandstand at Sunapee Harbor Wednesday night at 7.
∎ Weather permitting, the Dave Keller Band will play its collection of original blues at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction at 6:30 on Wednesday night. Because of construction on the Hartford Municipal Building next door, parking is limited for this summer’s series. The rec office is advising late arrivers to park at the White River Junction Visitor Center downtown or at the White River Elementary School.
Bar and Club Circuit
Jazz guitarist Bill Rosen opens the next week’s parade of performers through Hanover’s Canoe Club tonight at 7. Following him to the microphone with 7-to-10-p.m. sets are guitarist Phil Singer on Friday, jazz pianist Peter Kaplar on Saturday, pianist Gillian Joy on Sunday, and jazz/blues pianist Bob Lucier of Orford on Tuesday. The one break in the stream of music: Marko the Magician will perform his weekly sleight-of-hand on Monday night between 5:30 and 8:30.
∎ The Party Crashers will invade Skunk Hollow Tavern at Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.
∎ Karen Liot Hill sings at Jesse’s in Hanover on Friday night, starting at 5.
∎ Moxley Union will play at Windsor Station at 9 on Saturday night. On Tuesday at 6, Dan Blaise will come calling.
Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 p.m. on Thursdays. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.
∎ At Salt hill in Lebanon, Brian Warren and Seth Barbiero will host an open mic tonight starting at 8.
∎ Brian Warren also hosts an open mic at Bentleys Restaurant in Woodstock. It’s on Mondays, starting at 8:30 p.m.
∎ Bradford’s Colatina Exit hosts an open mic on Tuesdays starting at 8 p.m.
∎ The Seven Barrel Brewery in West Lebanon runs an open mic on Wednesdays, beginning at 8 p.m.
∎ Gregory Brown hosts an open mic at Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern, beginning at 8:30 p.m. on Wednesdays.
David Corriveau can be reached at email@example.com and at 603-727-3304.