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ArtisTree Opens New Theater With a Festival

  • Nick Kuhn, of Phoenix, Ariz., places lights with direction from Renee Koher, of Phoenix, Ariz., left, at the Grange Theatre in South Pomfret, Vt., Tuesday, July 1, 2017. Both Kuhn and Koher are performers and technicians in the ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival beginning August 11. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Alan Graham, of the Pomfret Historical Society, brought the original sign from the Teago Grange to be hung in the lobby of Artistree's new Grange Theatre in South Pomfret, Vt., Wednesday, August 2, 2017. Renovations and site work at the former Grange building are nearing completion. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Director Marc de la Concha, left, and cast member Megan Vallee, 7, right, spread out a gown around Olivia Loney, 13, that will be part of her costume as Ursula in The Little Mermaid at ArtisTree in South Pomfret, Vt., Tuesday, July 1, 2017. The musical will open the ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival at the new Grange Theatre on August 11. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Lee Densmore, 13, of Lebanon, rehearses a song he will perform as Prince Eric in The Little Mermaid at ArtisTree in Woodstock, Vt., Tuesday, July 1, 2017. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The renovation of the former Teago Grange building in South Pomfret, Vt., into a ArtisTree's new 100 seat theater nears completion Tuesday, July 1, 2017. The theater will open with a festival of four musicals in mid-August. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, August 02, 2017

For its next act, ArtisTree Community Arts Center this weekend will unveil the 90-seat theater it is fashioning out of the former Teago Grange Hall.

And almost as soon as they clear away the refreshments and unplug the amplifiers at the end of Saturday night’s open house, the steadily growing center’s leadership and volunteers will begin setting the stage for a production of The Little Mermaid Jr., the first of four musicals in a festival spanning late summer and early fall.

“It’s one of those ‘go big or go home’ situations,” Chris Flockton, ArtisTree’s new director of theater arts, said on Tuesday, while waiting at The Grange Theatre for signmakers to arrive and put finishing touches on the exterior. “We decided to start with a bang.”

After Little Mermaid Jr. wraps on Aug. 13, the ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival moves on to productions of Always Patsy Cline from Aug. 25 to Sept. 10, Godspell from Sept. 15 to Oct. 1 and The Marvelous Wonderettes from Oct. 6 to 22.

The festival, like the theater renovation itself, was in the works long before Flockton, a 50-year-old stage, screen and voice actor who had moved to Vermont in 2011, took over ArtisTree’s theater program  in February. After ArtisTree relocated its headquarters from Woodstock to South Pomfret in 2014, the center bought and leveled the house next door to create more space — revealing yet another opportunity directly across Stage Road from the village’s Abbott Memorial Library and diagonally across the road from the Teago General Store.

“We had a straight view to the grange,” ArtisTree Executive Director Kathleen Dolan recalled on Wednesday. “There was already a feeling of growth, of the ability to expand, and when Jarvis Green was directing our theater program, we were talking about doing more with theater. It was the perfect storm of factors.”

Eventually, Dolan approached the Teago Community Hall Association about restoring the grange look of the building’s exterior while transforming the long-idle interior into a state-of-the-art theater. Work began early in 2016, and this week Flockton is overseeing last-minute installations at the grange, among them those 90 seats, which as of Wednesday were still coming by truck from California.

After the festival, work will begin on phase two of a project that includes converting the barn on ArtisTree’s existing site into dressing rooms and rehearsal space.

“ArtisTree has been on a trajectory to increase theater curriculum and the theater program, and do regular productions in its own space,” Flockton said. “It was a happy accident that I came into this job just as this all was coming together.”

Dolan said that she hopes that longtime residents of Pomfret and neighboring towns, in addition to theater enthusiasts, come to the open house to see the next phase in the village’s evolution.

“It’s going to give people a lot of opportunities to have performing experiences, but it’s also a nice transition for the people who live around here,” Dolan said. “The grange was the community hot spot at one point. As a theater, it’s going to continue to be.”

ArtisTree Community Arts Center holds an open house for The Grange Theatre on Saturday night from 5:30 to 7:30, with tours, live music and light refreshments. To learn more about ArtisTree’s theater, visit artistreevt.org.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304.