Entertainment Highlights: Director of Randolph’s Chandler Center Plans to Retire in the Fall
Rebecca McMeekin will retire this fall as executive director of the Chandler Center for the Arts. She served 16 years during a period of strong growth for the Randolph fine and performing arts center. (Randolph Herald - Bob Eddy)
Ricardo Lemvo and his band, Makina Loca, are slated to perform on the Dartmouth Green at 5 p.m. Thursday, June 26.
The duo of Susanne Salem-Schatz and Martin Grosswendt will perform a concert of blues and roots music at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon, N.H., on June 28, 2014, at 7 p.m. (Courtesy photograph)
Hubbard Street Dance Chicago performs at Dartmouth’s Hopkins Center for the Arts on Friday and Saturday, June 28 and 29.
Mike Backman holds the skull of Yorick during a rehearsal for the Raw Shakespeare Co.'s production of Hamlet. In the background are, from left, Danelle Sims, Ben Buster and Patti Arrison. The production continues this weekend. See "Best Bets." Lois Resseguie photograph
For her final act as executive director of Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts, Becky McMeekin expects to join the revelers dancing to the final notes of Celtic and French-Canadian tunes at the 2014 New World Festival late on the Sunday night of Labor Day weekend.
“Aside from our youth programming, this music really resonates with me,” McMeekin said last week, with a little more than three months left in her 16-year tenure. “I love being in the midst of the excitement. All these happy people.”
With no more responsibilities for planning events and booking performers and recruiting sponsors — just to husband Charlie McMeekin and to their three grown children’s growing families — McMeekin will have an easier time of it than the Chandler’s board of directors, which will have to find a way to replace her.
“We were horrified when she said she was going to retire,” board Chairwoman Janet Watton said this week. “She knows everything. She’s got such an air about her, such grace. She handles situations of all kinds with such ardent diplomacy.”
While the board waits for next week’s call-back interview of the lead candidate to succeed her, McMeekin has been trying to re assure Chandler supporters that this ship will stay on course without her on the bridge.
“People say, ‘Oh, what are we going to do without you!’ ” McMeekin said. “I try to say, ‘You don’t understand: I may be the figurehead, but it takes so many people to make this work. Every March, we chart the amount of work our volunteers do, and it’s over 700 hours between building maintenance, board work, various committees … It’s an incredible group of people. When you’re here for a performance, and everyone’s doing what they do, it’s so wonderful. It’s so cool that we have this resource here.”
McMeekin took the wheel in the fall of 1998, as a 20-hours-a-week executive director with a budget of $80,000, overseeing “eight or 10 performances in the course of the year, with the (Central Vermont) chamber-music festival and the New World Festival as summer bookends. It felt like you had June, July and half of August to catch your breath. Take a vacation.”
Not anymore. Not with a budget of $450,000, and between 50 and 60 productions a year to oversee. Not with competition for entertainment dollars not only from the opera houses in Barre to the north and Lebanon to the south, and other town-based cultural groups such as Pentangle Arts in Woodstock.
“These organizations all do programming that takes people’s free time,” McMeekin said. “It’s made our job harder.”
And that’s not even counting the electronic revolution that coincided with McMeekin’s tenure.
“People are staying home with Netflix and their iPhones and their games,” Watton said. “We’ve been trying to attract a younger auidence, and they don’t have a lot of money for entertainment. It’s a growing problem.”
Hence McMeekin’s efforts to run productions by and for kids, starting with the Wizard of Oz in 1999 with 40-plus area youngsters, some 150 in last year’s Beauty and the Beast, and this coming July 4 weekend with dozens more in Fiddler on the Roof.
“We didn’t have air-conditioning then,” McMeekin said of the Oz show. “The kids in those felt Munchkin costumes were just melting. The Cowardly Lion got dehydrated.”
That experience brought home to the board of directors the need to upgrade the building: no climate control, no wings for performers not on stage, no storage space for sets. Not to mention assorted leaks and other issues that come with a building approaching its centenary — among them two antiquated restrooms on the main floor. By 2002, they were actively discussing a capital campaign.
“The central theme was ‘We’ve got this beautiful hall,’” McMeekin recalled. “‘But it can’t just be a museum piece.’ ”
The Chandler leadership interviewed architects in 2004, and the capital campaign ultimately yielded some $3.5 million. The renovation began in July 2009 — “Just as the economy was tanking,” McMeekin said — but the project went ahead. The staff and volunteers persevered through months of dust falling from ceilings in the partitioned office space that McMeekin occupied in the rear of the art-gallery space.
“It could have been a nightmare,” she said. “It was challenging, but it could have been a nightmare.”
On the other side of the challenge, the Chandler emerged with more production and gallery space and “the new bathrooms! The new bathrooms! That was a real talking point!” she said. By 2011, the Chandler was adding a Vermont Pride Theatre Summer Festival featuring films and plays exploring gay and lesbian issues.
All in all, the Chandler followed a long and winding road from McMeekin’s first year or so, during which a longtime Randolph resident once told her about events and happenings at the Chandler decades ago.
“She said, ‘I remember coming here to hear a lady whistler when I was a kid,’” McMeekin said. “People came out more and socialized then. By the time I started, there was still no Internet in the office, and it didn’t really matter. Now we can’t live without it. We had glossy folders for material from agents for the artists, and that’s gone the way of the dinosaur.”
Even with modern technology helping the cause, McMeekin still oversees a skeleton staff: she as the lone full-time employee, a community outreach person whose position was created in 2006, and a part-time box office person.
“I won’t miss the worry and the exhaustion,” she said. “Even in the best of financial times, it’s not easy.”
While pondering retirement last year, McMeekin worried for a while when Lake Sunapee Bank bought out Randolph National Bank, chief sponsor of the New World Festival.
“Then (Lake Sunapee) even raised their contribution,” she said. “That was a relief, and so gratifying. That was huge. I think knowing that that was secure made my decision easier, too.”
With the preparations for Fiddler well underway and the Pride Festival in the capable hands of organizer Sharon Rives, McMeekin looks forward to bringing one more New World Festival in for a landing.
“That’s a lot of balls in the air,” she said. “It’s absolutely exhausting. But once you get to that moment on Sunday night where we’re clearing up, it’s a feeling of, ‘Gosh darn it, Randolph: Well done!’ ”
Ricardo Lemvo will lead his eight-piece group Makina Loca onto the green in Hanover this evening to belt out a form of salsa music blending influences from central Africa, Latin America and Los Angeles. Before the show itself starts at 5, Lemvo will talk about his musical heritage and influences at 4 at 219 Wilson Hall. Admission is free.
∎ The 18-member contemporary troupe Hubbard Street Dance Chicago will hit the stage of Dartmouth’s Moore Theater on Friday and Saturday nights at 8, to perform to the music of Steve Reich, Dean Martin, and Moroccan-born composer Hassan Hakmoun. Tickets for the show, in which some dancers perform with a bare minimum of costume, cost between $8.50 and $45. For more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu/Online/hubbard_street_dance_company.
Before the Saturday night performance, the troupe will hold two master classes: for intermediate ballet dancers at 10 a.m. in the Lebanon Ballet School on the mall in Lebanon, and for intermediate repertoire dancers at noon in the Hopkins Center’s Moore Theatre. Both master classes cost $10.
∎ Under the direction of founder Michael Barnhart, the new Raw Shakespeare Company will complete its inaugural presentation of Hamlet with 7:30 performances on Friday and Saturday nights at Woodstock’s Little Theater. For more information, visit rawshakespearecompany.org
∎ Let Maurice Chevalier thank heaven for little girls into cinematic infinity: We prefer to thank French directors and screenwriters for continuing to provide sharp roles for Catherine Deneuve, decades past her ingenue days. On Friday night at 7, the Hopkins Center will show On My Way, the 2013 picture in which Deneuve depicts a former beauty queen and restaurant owner with problems financial and romantic who hits the road in search of answers to the myriad question marks in her life. Tickets cost $5 to $8. For more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu.
∎ The Vermont Symphony Orchestra will perform a wide range of dance music at the Suicide Six ski area in South Pomfret on Saturday night, as part of the summer festival tour that VSO is co-sponsoring with Woodstock’s Pentangle Arts Council. Under the baton of guest conductor Anthony Princiotti, the Let’s Dance program will flow from waltzes and swing to polkas and salsa. The gates will open at 5, the music will begin at 7:30, and the show will close with a display of fireworks. For tickets and more information, visit pentanglearts.org.
∎ As part of the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site’s tribute to former sculptor-in-residence Lawrence Nowlan of Windsor, who died in July of 2013, the Buverstam Finehouse Trio comes to Cornish on Sunday afternoon at 2 to perform “Classically Modern Basque Dances to Beatles.” The ensemble features Sebastian Baverstam on cello, Emily Smith on violin and Constantine Finehouse on piano. All the concerts in the Saint-Gaudens summer series start at 2, in the Little Studio next to Aspet, the main house. Admission is included in the price to enter the historic site. For more information, visit nps.gov/saga/planyourvisit/summer-concerts.htm.
Even if you were a rich man, with the means to attend revivals of Fiddler on the Roof on Broadway and around the world, you’d want to check out the version of the classic musical that the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph will stage over Fourth of July weekend, with a cast of more than 100 area kids. Where better than central Vermont, after all, to laugh and cry and sing along with the dairyman Tevye while he struggles to adapt to changes to the traditions of his culture while raising five daughters? Tickets cost $12 to $18. For more information, visit the Chandler box office or call 802-728-6464 between 3 and 6 on weekday afternoons.
∎ The Big Top Tour of Circus Smirkus, the Vermont-based traveling circus of performers ages 10 to 18, will perform two shows a day at Fullington Farm Field in Hanover on July 5 and 6. The July 5 shows will take place at 2 and 7 p.m., while the July 6 productions will go off at 11 a.m. and 4 p.m. Tickets cost $14-$21. For more information, visit smirkus.org.
∎ Veteran fiddler and singer-songwriter Kate MacLeod comes to the Meriden Congregational Church from Salt Lake City on July 5 to teach a fiddle workshop at 3 in the afternoon and to perform a concert at 8. The Intermountain Acoustic Music Association recently named her best violin and fiddle player of 2014 and best female songwriter of the year. Advance tickets bought by Friday (June 27) cost $15; they are obtainable by calling 603-675-5454 or visiting twincloud.wix.com/twin-cloud-events. Tickets at the door are $20. Tickets for the workshop cost $25; call 603-675-5454 to reserve a space.
The New London Barn Playhouse continues its three-week run of the musical Damn Yankees with shows at 7:30 tonight, Friday night and Saturday night, a 5 p.m. performance on Sunday, a 7:30 staging on Tuesday night, and a 2 p.m. matinee and a 7:30 presentation on Wednesday night. The play is based on Douglass Wallop’s novel of the 1950s about baseball fan Joe Hardy selling his soul to the devil to turn him into a superstar hitter and fielder and boost his hapless Washington Senators past a certain New York diamond dynasty. Under the direction of Robert Sella, the choreography of Ralph Perkins, and the musical oversight of Emily Croome, it features Richard Adler and Jerry Ross’ Broadway-classic songs You’ve Gotta Have Heart and Shoeless Joe. For tickets and other information, including showtimes, from July 1 through July 13, visit nlbarn.org/box-office/current-season/#dy.
∎ The BarnArts Center for the Arts this weekend will lower the curtain on its production of the musical Little Shop of Horrors, in which a carnivorous plant evolves into a monster that both threatens and empowers a lowly store worker, Seymour, played by Garrett Inman. In addition to evening shows at 7:30 this Friday, Saturday and Sunday, BarnArts will stage Saturday and Sunday matinees at 2 at Barnard Town Hall, under the co-direction of Jarvis Green and Tom Beck. For tickets and more information, visit barnarts.org.
∎ Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center for the Arts tonight will screen an HD-video presentation of the Royal Shakespeare Company’s staging of Richard II, starring David Tennant (one of the more recent Dr. Whos) in the title role of the king who precipitated a century-long dynastic civil war in England. The show starts at 7, in Loew Auditorium at the Black Center Visual Arts Center. Tickets are $23. For more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu.
∎ The Youth Shakespeare Project is inviting aspiring thespians ages 11 to 17 to its free summer theater camp at the Howe Library in Hanover between today and July 31. In addition to studying text, campers will play theater games, do vocal exercises and movement activities and rehearse scenes on Monday, Tuesday, Thursday and Friday afternoons between 2 and 5, all in preparation for staging a production of As You Like It. For more information, visit youthshakespeareproject.blogspot.com.
Interplay Jazz & Arts shifts into the second half of its week of performances and workshops in Woodstock with the following events: a swing dance tonight at 7 at the Little Theater (tickets $10); an all-star jazz concert featuring a line-up that includes Fred Haas, in the North Universalist Chapel on Friday night at 8 (tickets $10-$20); and an All-American Jazz concert from Interplay faculty and students, along with an art show and a picnic at Vail Field from noon to 3:30 on Saturday (admission free). For more information, visit interplayjazzandarts.org.
∎ Singer-songwriter Patrick Fitzsimmons leads his band to Colburn Park in Lebanon tonight at 7, in the kickoff to the Front Porch Concert Series of the Lebanon Department of Parks and Recreation.
∎ The Bretts will play old-time country music on the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30, in week two of the Hartford Parks & Recreation Department’s series of summer concerts.
∎ The Panhandlers Steel Band will kick off the Norwich Women’s Club series of concerts on the town green with a big dose of Caribbean music on Friday night at 7.
∎ Gerry Grimo leads the East Bay Jazz Ensemble onto the Mary Haddad Bandstand in New London at 6:30 Friday night, for the third in the summer series of concerts on the town green.
∎ The Quechee Summer Music Series lifts off Friday night at 7:30 with the first of two concerts on the Quechee Ski Hill, across River Road from the Quechee Club. Under the direction of Walt Cunningham, the concert will feature members of the Dartmouth Gospel Choir and the Dartmouth Idol program, performing rock, jazz, R&B, gospel and other genres of music. Proceeds will benefit WISE, the Lebanon-based social-service agency that helps Upper Valley victims of domestic and sexual violence. Tickets to this concert, and to the finale on Aug. 1, each cost $10-$30. For more information, call 802-295-9356 or send e-mail to email@example.com.
∎ The young musicians of the Boston Civic Orchestra will perform at Colby-Sawyer College’s Center Theater on Saturday night at 7:30. The program includes Mendelssohn’s Hebrides Overture and Violin Concerto, with 13-year-old Ilana Zaks as soloist, and Beethoven’s Symphony No. 8 in F Major. Tickets are $5-$25. For advance tickets, visit summermusicassociates.com or the Morgan Hill Bookstore, the Tatewell Gallery or the Chamber of Commerce; or call 603-526-8234.
∎ The duo of Martin Grosswendt and Susanne Salem-Schatz will perform a concert of blues and roots music at the Upper Valley Music Center in Lebanon on Saturday night at 7. Admission is $20; to reserve a spot in a venue with limited seating, visit uvmusic.org or call 603-448-1642. Earlier in the day, Grosswendt and Salem-Schatz will conduct workshops at the music center: on blues guitar at 2:30 in the afternoon and on vocal harmony at 4:30. Each workshop costs $25.
∎ Under new director Becky Luce, the Upper Valley Community Band will open the summer concert series of the Lebanon Department Parks and Recreation with a performance at Colburn Park on Monday night at 7.
∎ Week No. 3 in the Hartford Rec Dept’s summer series of Wednesday-night concerts brings The Party Crashers to Lyman Point Park in White River Junction, at 6:30 Wednesday evening. The New England-based band plays funk, soul, rhythm-and-blues and other genres. 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.
∎ Children’s musician Sammie Haynes will open the Thursdays in the Park series of summer concerts for families with a performance at noon on Wednesday in Lebanon’s Colburn Park.
Bar and Club Circuit
Lebanon-bred Tyler Drabick and his Whiskey Geese duo come to Salt hill Pub in Lebanon at 9 on Friday night, for a set of blues and rock.
∎ Guitarist/singer David Greenfield takes the stage tonight at 7 at the Weathersfield Inn in Perkinsville, for a set of pop, country, folk, rock and American standards.
∎ Carlos Ocasio leads Frydaddy onto the stage at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Friday night, starting at 9.
∎ The party rockers of The Wheelers play a set at Salt hill Pub in Hanover at 9 on Friday night. And 24 hours later, Carter Glass, a quartet, will perform rock and Americana.
∎ Peter Concilio’s jazz ensemble will play at Windsor Station at 9 on Saturday night.
∎ The power-pop duo Sirsy brings the tour of its album Coming Into Frame to Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday night starting at 9. Saturday night will feature singer-songwriters Mark and Deb Bond, also at 9.
∎ The next week’s parade of live performers at Hanover’s Canoe Club begins tonight at 7 with guitarist David Greenfield. Next in line come guitarist Tom Pirozzoli on Friday night at 7, pianist Jonathan Kaplon on Saturday night at 7, Hanover high school singer-songwriter Noah Kahan at 7 on Sunday night, jazzman Ted Mortimer at 7 on Tuesday night, and pianist Keith Bush at 7 on Wednesday night. Marko the Magician will perform his sleight-of-hand at the club on Monday night between 5:30 and 8:30.
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 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 firstname.lastname@example.org and at 603-727-3304
The current budget of the Chandler Center for the Arts is $450,000 a year. An earlier version of this story gave an incorrect figure.