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Highlights: Northern Stage Leader to Start Mentoring Program for Women in Theater

  • Carol Dunne, artistic director at Northern Stage, answers a question during a one-hour lunch and discussion open to donors and cast members in the new lobby of the theater in White River Junction, Vt., on Sept. 29, 2015. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • The Russian Grand Ballet makes its first appearance in Lebanon with a performance of "Swan Lake" at Lebanon Opera House on Sept. 30. See 'Looking Ahead' for more information.



Valley News Staff Writers
Thursday, September 21, 2017

Years before she became the producing artistic director of Northern Stage, Carol Dunne approached a male artistic director whose work she admired and asked him if he would be her mentor. Running a professional theater demands a high level of business acumen on top of the artistic skills one needs to make it in the theater world, and many production companies have gone belly-up due to inadequate leadership.

But the man said no. “He told me he’d always envisioned the person he mentored as being another man,” Dunne said this week in an interview at her office in the Barrette Center for the Arts, the building in White River Junction that houses Northern Stage.

“So, Google was my mentor,” she said. She taught herself how to fundraise, how to track company finances with spreadsheets, how to hire and manage a staff and how to communicate with unions — no thanks to the men who did not see these as women’s roles.

Such experiences were at the forefront of her mind this summer, when she presented her vision of the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle to the Pussycat Foundation, the legacy of Cosmopolitan Magazine’s founding editor, Helen Gurley Brown, who was a lifelong advocate of women’s rights and a great lover of theater, especially musicals.

“It’s the perfect confluence of missions,” Dunne said of the project, which Northern Stage announced in a press release Monday. “They were thrilled.”

When BOLD Circle launches in the 2018-2019 season, the five female artistic directors (including Dunne) chosen for the program will receive an annual $250,000, with a one-year beta and a vision for a three-year BOLD Circle sponsorship. This money must go toward hiring and mentoring women in leadership roles in professional theaters.

The same day Dunne pitched her idea to the Pussycat Foundation, she found out she’d been selected for the foundation’s prestigious Helen Gurley Brown Genius Grant, which will split an additional $250,000 evenly between Northern Stage and the New London Barn Playhouse, where Dunne served as artistic director from 2008 to 2013.

She noted that people are often surprised to learn that the “glass ceiling” for women exists not only in such fields as politics and academia, but in the arts as well: According to a recent study conducted by the Wellesley Centers for Women, women have never held more than 27 percent of leadership positions in regional theaters in the United States. The study also reported that this gender disparity does not stem from a small pool of qualified female candidates; rather, theater boards that are overwhelmingly white and male tend to “hire people who look like them,” Dunne said.

Too often, she’s worked in male-run theaters that ended up “wasting a tremendous amount of money” on projects that did little for the artistic integrity of the company, and even less for the community the theater is meant to serve. And from what she’s seen, women who are hired tend to find themselves at the helm of a sinking ship, and must put their ambitions aside until they can figure out how to breathe life back into institutions laboring under the weight of previous mismanagement.

Dunne successfully improved operations at both the New London Barn Playhouse and Northern Stage, but she wants women to start their artistic direction “on the same playing field” as their male counterparts.

To this end, the BOLD Circle members must use their funds toward specific initiatives, including hiring 20 percent more female directors and designers over a three-year period; supporting four female designers, writers or directors per season; developing at least one new musical theater piece, written by a woman, per season; joining and participating in the Theatre Communications Group, a major professional theater consortium; and — most exciting to Dunne — hiring a competitively paid woman associate director to mentor, who will have opportunities to direct main-stage productions and who will ideally move on to an artistic director position within five years.

The grant may also support artistic research, underwriting the artistic director’s salary up to $80,000 in the spirit of an academic endowment, travel expenses and other initiatives to identify and address the gender-based obstacles women experience in the theater industry.

“It’s not amorphous. It’s not some groovy idea,” Dunne said. “It’s a specific vision of how to give women in theaters across the country the best tools for success.”

To learn more about BOLD Circle and the application guidelines, visit northernstage.org/BOLDCircle. Applications are due Nov. 15.

Northern Stage launches its 2017-2018 season at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction, with preview performances of A Doll’s House at 7:30 tonight, and at 10 Friday morning and at 7:30 Friday night, before the official opening night on Saturday at 7:30. This adaptation of Henrik Ibsen’s groundbreaking drama runs through Oct. 28. Tickets to the preview shows cost $13.75 to $32.75. From Saturday on, admission is $13.75 to $57.75, except for Tuesday, when entry costs $20. To reserve seats and learn more, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Best Bets

The Abraham.in.Motion ensemble unveils choreographer Kyle Abraham’s Dearest Home tonight at 7 and Friday night at 8 at Dartmouth College’s Moore Theater in Hanover. The dances were inspired by Abraham’s conversations with people of various ages and backgrounds, some conducted during the summer of 2016 at the Hopkins Center. For tickets ($19 to $40) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

The Vermont Symphony Orchestra’s “Made in Vermont Tour” pulls into the Woodstock Town Hall Theatre tonight at 7:30. The company performs with violinist Pamela Frank through Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante, and performs contemporary Vermont composer Paul Dedell’s Breath. To reserve seats ($10 to $30) and learn more, visit pentanglearts.org or call 802-457-3981. To learn about other stops on the tour, visit vso.org/events.

Adam Ezra leads his roots-rock ensemble into Pierce’s Inn in Etna tonight. The doors open at 6:30 for refreshments and dinner, and the music begins around 8:15. Admission is $45 for the concert alone and $65 for audiences staying for dinner. To reserve tickets and tables and to learn more, visit piercesinn.com or call 603-643-2997.

Swedish harpist lydia ievins and fiddler Jennifer Turbes set the rhythm for the community dance that Revels North will host at the East Thetford Pavilion on Sunday, as the kickoff to its December staging of the Christmas Revels. Ievins also will deliver a lecture on the Scandinavian music and culture that will infuse this year’s Revels, at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. Admission is free to Sunday’s gathering, which starts at 5:15 with a Nordic-themed potluck dinner, followed by the music and dance at 6. To learn more, visit revelsnorth.org.

On hiatus from his new home base of Nashville, Enfield native Brooks Hubbard plays sets of acoustic rock and country at the Salt hill Pubs in Hanover on Friday night at 9 and in West Lebanon on Sunday night from 6 to 9.

Looking Ahead

The Royal Frog Ballet troupe, led by Thetford Academy graduate Sophie Wood, will perform its Surrealist Cabaret at the Feast and Field Market in Barnard on Sept. 29 and 30 and on Oct. 1. The cabaret, starting each afternoon at 5, blends storytelling, dance, installation pieces and roving characters to explore and celebrate the approaching harvest season. This year’s theme is “Roots.” For tickets ($9 to $18) and more information, visit theroyalfrogballet.org. Spectators are encouraged to arrive early.

Randolph’s Chandler Music Hall hosts an a cappella trifecta on Sept. 30, with performances by The Persuasions, Maple Jam and The Dartmouth Aires, starting at 7 p.m. Tickets cost $32 in advance and $34 the day of the show. To reserve seats and learn more, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

The Russian Grand Ballet will perform Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake at the Lebanon Opera House on Sept. 30 at 7:30 p.m. To reserve tickets ($50 to $80) and learn more, visit lebanonoperahouse.org or call 603-448-0400 or visit the box office in City Hall during weekday business hours.

Toting his fiddle, mandolin, cello, banjo, guitar and steel guitar, South Newbury, Vt., musician Patrick Ross will bring his Traveling Sound tour of northern New England to the Upper Valley, with performances on Oct. 13 at 7 p.m. in Tunbridge Town Hall, on Oct. 14 at 7 p.m. in Hartland’s Damon Hall and on Oct. 15 at 3 p.m. at the Seven Stars Arts Center in Sharon. For tickets ($20) and more information, visit rockfarmer.com or call 802-866-3309.

Theater/Performance Art

The ArtisTree Music Theatre Festival continues its adaptation of Godspell at the new Grange Theatre in South Pomfret, with performances at 7:30 tonight and Friday night, at 3 on Saturday afternoon, at 7:30 Saturday night, at 2 on Sunday afternoon, and at 7:30 next Thursday night. The play runs through Oct. 1. To reserve seats ($15 to $25) and learn more about this and subsequent festival productions, visit artistreevt.org or call 802-457-3500.

The Old Church Theater in Bradford, Vt., wraps its run through four one-act comedies on the theme of “Duets” this weekend, with performances at 7:30 on Friday and at 4 on Sunday afternoon. The shows include Blind Date, Bride, Holiday and Secretarial. For tickets ($6 to $12) and more information, visit oldchurchtheater.org or call 802-222-3322.

Theatreworks USA stages Dragons Love Tacos, a musical adapted from Adam Rubin’s book and from the works of four other children’s authors, on Sunday afternoon at 3, at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium in Hanover. For tickets ($13 to $23) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Music

The Aldrich Brothers play country rhythms during the Lebanon Farmers Market this afternoon, 4 to 7, in Colburn Park.

JeConte and Sean Harkness serenade the weekly Feast and Field Market at Fable Farm in Barnard with soulful blues tonight starting at 5:30.

Singer-pianist Tim Kelly performs jazz standards, as well as modern variations on the genre, at the Library Arts Center in Newport tonight at 7, in a concert benefiting the center. For tickets ($10) and more information, visit libraryartscenter.org or call 603-863-3040..

Organist Bernhard Klapprott plays works of Bach and his contemporaries at the Church of Christ at Dartmouth College in Hanover on Sunday afternoon at 4. Admission is free.

Dance

City Center Ballet holds open auditions on Saturday for its December production of Clara’s Dream, a Nutcracker Story. Auditions will take place at the Lebanon Ballet School on the downtown mall, with registration beginning at noon. To learn more, call Linda Copp at 603-448-9710 or email linda@citycenterballet.org.

Bar and Club Circuit

Bill Temple and Pete Meijer pull into Windsor Station tonight at 7:30 to play a set of rock. Following them to the venue over the coming week are The Wheelers on Friday night at 9:30, Maiden Voyage on Saturday night at 10 and Dave Richardson on Tuesday night at 6.

Singer-songwriter Rick Clogston performs at the tavern at Jesse’s restaurant in Hanover on Friday evening starting at 5.

Singer-guitarist Geoff Bartley plays folk and blues during the weekly Sunapee Community Coffeehouse on Friday night at 7. While admission is free, donations are welcome.

The Kind Buds fill the Public House in Quechee with folk and rock rhythms on Friday night at 7.

Groove Axiom plays the Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Friday night at 8:30, the Conniption Fits rock the venue on Saturday night at 9 and Bow Thayer delivers his weekly dose of Americana on Wednesdy night at 7:30.

Soulfix performs at the Lake Morey resort in Fairlee on Friday night at 8:30 and at Colby-Sawyer College in New London on Monday night at 5.

The folk-rock duo of Mark and Deb Bond kicks off the weekend of music at Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9. Following the Bonds to the venue on Saturday night at 9 will be Groove Sum with a set of classic and modern rock.

Art James sings and plays the blues at Salt hill Pub in Newport on Friday night at 9, followed at the same hour on Saturday by Flew-Z.

Chris Powers rocks Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Saturday night at 8.

Singer-guitarist Chad Gibbs leads Turner Round into Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Saturday night at 9.

Moxley Union sets the rockin’ rhythm for dancing at the Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

Open Mics

Ramunto’s Brick & Brew Pizza in Bridgewater hosts an open mic starting at 7:30 on Thursday nights. Participants get a free large cheese pizza.

String players of all ages and abilities are welcome at the weekly acoustic jam session at South Royalton’s BALE Commons on Friday night from 6:30 to 10.

Joe Stallsmith leads a weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass at Salt hill Pub in Hanover on Monday nights starting at 6.

Jim Yeager hosts the weekly open-mics on Monday night at 8 at Bentley’s in Woodstock (filling in for Brian Warren) and at 8:30 Wednesday night in Hartland’s Skunk Hollow Tavern.

Bradford’s Colatina Exit holds an open mic, Tuesday nights at 8.

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

EmmaJean Holley can be reached at eholley@vnews.com or 603-727-3216.