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Entertainment Highlights: New Chandler Director to Hit the Ground Running

  • Kurt Thoma has been named the executive director at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt. He was previously the operations manager at the University of Michigan's orchestra hall. (Courtesy photograph)

    Kurt Thoma has been named the executive director at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt. He was previously the operations manager at the University of Michigan's orchestra hall. (Courtesy photograph)

  • Kurt Thoma has been named the executive director at the Chandler Center for the Arts in Randolph, Vt. He was previously the operations manager at the University of Michigan's orchestra hall. (Courtesy photograph)

While Kurt Thoma will officially take the reins at Randolph’s Chandler Center for the Arts on Sept. 1, in the meantime he’ll be riding shotgun with departing Executive Director Becky McMeekin on the stagecoach speeding toward the Aug. 31 New World Festival of Celtic and French-Canadian music.

So much for easing into the new job ...

“This is exactly the kind of community event I’ve been looking forward to organizing,” the 38-year-old Thoma said during a telephone interview this week from Michigan, where he was packing with his wife Janine for the move to Randolph. “It’ll be nice to have an interesting challenge, jumping right in.”

Thoma’s experience with handling challenges and otherwise multi-tasking in arts-related jobs immediately caught the attention of the Chandler board during the search for a replacement for McMeekin, who is retiring after a 16-year tenure during which the center’s output rose from eight or 10 productions in 1998 to between 50 and 60 in recent years, and the operating budget climbed from $80,000 to $450,000.

“That kind of drive and enthusiasm is exactly what a non-profit like us needs to have, continuing in Becky’s vein,” board Chairwoman Janet Watton said on Wednesday. “It’s a huge job, but he’s so eager to do it.”

Before taking the past year off to travel around the world with his wife, Thoma spent 11 years managing the University of Michigan’s 3,500-seat Hill Auditorium as well as supervising four theatrical venues on campus, which involved everything from booking acts to instructing students, professionals, renters and community groups on how to use theater technologies. Oh, and while he was at it, he ran the Roscommon, Mich.-based Acting Up Theatre Company that he’d founded in 1996 while pursuing his associate degree in fine-arts theater at Kirtland Community College.

“The company began with two volunteers and $200 and ... (grew) to a $100,000 annual budget and five employees serving over 85 schools, libraries and community groups, and ultimately reaching more than 68,000 children,” Thoma wrote to Watton in the cover letter to his resume. “My biggest pride of this project was in helping these kids become better students, better communicators and more confident people.”

During his first four years in Ann Arbor, Thoma also found time to complete his bachelor’s degree in theater at Eastern Michigan University, to serve as technical director of the comedy-vocal group Three Men and a Tenor.

He is a get-it-done type of person who thrives on complications,” said Chandler board member and Volunteer Coordinator Marda Donner. “His references glowed with reports of his ability to get along well and communicate with everyone, from big name performers such as Maya Angelou to the custodial staff.”

While he could have continued with that balancing act or gone on to bigger stages, Thoma started setting his sights on Vermont as a place to settle and share his talent during a first-wedding-anniversary vacation in the state in 2007.

“We absolutely adored it,” Thoma recalled. “Every opportunity over the next seven years, we took to go back to Vermont.”

During the past year of travel, Thoma and his wife were volunteering at a horse farm on Tasmania the large island off the southeast coast of Australia when one day he typed the key words “Vermont” “executive director” and “performing arts center” into Google and came up with the opening at Chandler. By mid-July, he was interviewing for the position and perusing downtown Randolph and the surrounding area.

“The size of the town, that type of environment, really appeals to us,” Thoma said. “And the mix of programming from major acts and variety of shows, a commitment to children’s theater, in a town of that size, was remarkable. And to see that a town that size has a (gay) pride festival just blew me away. The idea of small town being open-minded enough to be willing to commit to something like that made us really excited.”

McMeekin, who in June said she was retiring to spend more time with her grown children’s families and to pursue her own artistic interests, uses the same word to describe her successor.

“We are tremendously excited about Kurt, and the experience and fresh perspective he’ll bring to his work at Chandler,” she said in a statement to Chandler supporters. “I trust you will extend to Kurt the same warm support you’ve shown me.”

Best Bets

In the kickoff to the 22nd Central Vermont Chamber Music Festival at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph, Arturo Delmoni will lead a master class in violin, in coordination with the Vermont Youth Orchestra (VYO), tonight at 7, with no admission (with donations welcome). Subsequent festival events include a performance of “2+2+3,” with Delmoni, festival founder and cellist Peter Sanders, and pianist Jung Lin interpreting works by Rachmaninoff, Tartini, and Smetana at 8 p.m. on Saturday, for which tickets cost $25. And on Sunday at 12:30 at Bethany Church in Randolph, Jeffrey Domoto will conduct the VYO’s chamber orchestra with Sanders on cello and with a VYO soloist, with admission free. The Sunday afternoon concert will be preceded at 11 a.m. by a Breakfast with Bach, at $8 a person, in Chandler’s Upper Gallery. Also on Sunday, at 4 p.m., Sanders, Lin and Smetana will perform “2+2+3” at the North Universalist Chapel in Woodstock. For more information about the festival, visit cvcmf.org.

∎ The Old Church Theater in Bradford, Vt., will stage the first three performances of a two-weekend production of the Peter Clapham adaptation of Louisa May Alcott’s novel Little Women , which follows the Civil War-era tribulations of the March family of Massachusetts, among the four sisters the aspiring writer Jo. Showtimes on Friday and Saturday nights are at 7:30, followed by a matinee at 4 on Sunday afternoon. The run will conclude the weekend of Aug. 22-24. For tickets ($5 to $10) and more information, call 802-222-3322 or visit oldchurchtheater.org.

∎ More than 20 Upper Valley singers, dancers and actors will perform on the topic, “What would you do if you weren’t afraid?” in the revue FEAR-less, on Sunday night at 7 at The Sharon Academy. Performers include Rebecca Bailey, Maureen Burford, Dave Clark, Henry Higgs, Josiah Proietti, Kevin Quigley, Leah Romano, Jim Schley, Annemieke Spoelstra, Lindsey Warren and the Thetford Chamber Singers Outreach Ensemble.

∎ Starting Wednesday with a 2 p.m. matinee and 7:30 p.m. show, the New London Barn Playhouse will stage an adaptation of the Alfred Hitchcock movie Dial ‘M’ for Murder. The play follows a conniving husband’s efforts to get rid of his wealthy wife. After Wednesday, there are 11 more stagings through Aug. 31, which ends the Barn’s season. For tickets ($24.50 to $40) and more information, visit nlbarn.org.

Looking Ahead

The Cornish-based Momentum Theatre will stage two performances at Meriden’s Aidron Duckworth Museum on Aug. 26 at 4:30 and 7 p.m. This summer their repertoire of plays includes Chekhov’s one-act The Proposal, the original Own Life (inspired by George Orwell’s novel 1984), and Juliet and Her Romeo, a reworking of the Shakespeare play. For more information, visit theatretruck.com.

Theater/Performance Art

Magician George Saterial performs at noon today at Colburn Park in Lebanon, as part of the Park and Recreation Department’s Thursdays in the Park series.

Thanks to the magic of an HD simulcast in Dartmouth’s Spaulding Auditorium, Upper Valley fans of the Monty Python comedy troupe on Friday night can watch the surviving members — John Cleese, Michael Palin, Eric Idle, Terry Jones, and Terry Gilliam — cavort and improvise and otherwise harness chaos onstage in England in what they call a “mostly” live show. Expect plenty of bits, some naughtier than others, from their 1970s TV series Monty Python’s Flying Circus, and from movies such as Life of Brian and Monty Python and the Holy Grail, as well as some new material. Tickets cost $23. For more information, call 603-643-2422.

∎ For its third and final act of a three-week residency of works-in-progress at Dartmouth College’s Hopkins Center, the New York Theatre Workshop on Saturday night will perform Vermont-based singer-songwriter Anais Mitchell’s folk opera Hadestown at the Werner-Bentley Theater. The opera is organized out of a cycle of Mitchell’s songs based on the Greek myth of Orpheus and Euridyce. Admission is $9 to $13. For more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

∎ At the Lebanon Opera House over the next week, Opera North is offering performances of Kurt Weill’s Street Scene tonight and Sunday, of Lerner-and-Loewe’s My Fair Lady on Saturday and Monday, and of Giuseppe Verdi’s La Traviata Friday night and Wednesday night. Tickets for each production cost between $32 and $88. For more information, visit www.operanorth.org/my-fair-lady.html or call 603-448-0400.

Music

The redoubtable Robert Resnick, host of Vermont Public Radio’s weekly All the Traditions folk show, will perform on the green in Woodstock at noon today, as part of the Pentangle Arts series of admission-free Brown Bag concerts.

∎ The Kenny Brothers Band will belt out a set of jam rock on the Quechee Green tonight at 6:30.

∎ Al Edwards and The List will perform pop and rock on the bandstand at Colburn Park in Lebanon tonight at 7.

∎ The Kearsarge Community Band will bid farewell to summer on Friday night at 6:30 with the final concert at the Mary Haddad Memorial Bandstand on the green in New London.

∎Tom Pirozolli and Gerry Putnam will join musical forces at the Flanders Stage on Sunapee Harbor on Saturday evening, between 5 and 7.

∎ Sunday afternoon at 2, cellist Julia MacLane and French horn player Louis Pierre will perform the ninth annual Rosemond Edmonson Memorial Concert, on the theme of “Pictures at an Exhibition,” during the weekly musical interlude at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. Admission is included in the price to enter the historic site, $5 for age 16 and up. For more information, visit nps.gov/saga/planyourvisit/summer-concerts.htm.

∎ The Lyme Town Band will hit the bandstand of Lebanon’s Colburn Park on Monday night at 7.

∎ The Moonlighters will wrap up Canaan’s summer concert series with a swinging set of big-band fare at 6:30 Tuesday night on the green.

∎ For the final show in the Community Concert Series at Gifford Park in Randolph, Two for the Show & Co. will perform song standards and classics on Tuesday night at 6.

∎ Matt Borello will range across folk, country, blues and rock genres in the final concert of the season at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction at 6:30 on Wednesday night.

∎ Studio Two will play at the Ben Mere Bandstand on Sunapee Harbor on Wednesday night at 7.

Film

Director Jay Craven returns to the Upper Valley the next two weekends to present and discuss his new film, Northern Borders, an adaptation of Vermont author Howard Frank Mosher’s Depression-era novel. Leading a strong ensemble cast is Bruce Dern, who as the grandfather provides an intriguing contrast to his Oscar-nominated depiction in 2013 of another crotchedy-yet-complex character, Woody, in Alexander Payne’s Oscar-nominated Nebraska. Craven shot this movie in Vermont and New Hampshire with a crew that included students from Marlboro College. This Saturday night at 7:30, he’ll screen the movie at the Claremont Opera House. If you miss that showing, the next opportunity comes on Saturday, Aug. 23, at Lebanon’s First Congregational Church. For more information, including the full tour schedule, visit kingdomcounty.org/our_films/northern_borders.php.

Bar and Club Circuit

Pianist Gillian Joy opens the next week’s parade of performers through Hanover’s Canoe Club, tonight at 7. Following Joy to the microphone with 7-to-10-p.m. sets are jazz guitarist Ted Mortimer on Friday, jazz guitarist Ed Eastridge on Sunday, pianist Jonathan Kaplan on Tuesday, and guitarist Tom Pirozzoli on Wednesday. Also, Marko the Magician will perform his weekly sleight-of-hand on Monday night between 5:30 and 8:30.

∎ The lineup of artists at Salt hill Pub in Newport starts Friday night at 9 with Zach Nugent mixing original songs with a mix of covers of the Grateful Dead and Jerry Garcia, with Megan Legere leading Please Don’t Tell onto the stage Saturday night at 9.

∎ The Chris Kleeman Blues Band travels over from Ludlow, Vt., to play on Friday night at 9 in the Skunk Hollow Tavern at Hartland Four Corners.

∎ The Ryans will perform Irish music at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon on Friday night, starting at 9. At the same time on Saturday night, the up-and-coming rockers of the Adam McMahon Trio will make its first appearance at the Lebanon pub.

∎ Jim Hollis performs at Jesse’s in Hanover on Friday night, starting at 5.

∎ The weekend of music at Salt hill Pub in Hanover starts Friday night at 9 with Montana-based singer-songwriter Madeline Hawthorne continuing her rounds of the Upper Valley, and continues Saturday night at 9 with a set of acoustic rock and Americana from PJ Pacifico.

∎ The Sensible Shoes band comes to Loch Lyme Lodge’s Sunday Buffet Music Series this weekend, playing after the dinner that starts at 6.

∎ Erik Boedtker plays on Tuesday night at 6 at Windsor Station.

Open Mics

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 holds 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 dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.

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