Highlights: Claremont’s Amplified Arts Mounts First Production for Adults

  • Amplified Arts Producing Artistic Director Shelly Hudson applies fake blood to the hands of Kirstie Small, of Lebanon, while she rehearses a scene as Sister Agnes in "Agnes of God" at Amplified Arts in Claremont, N.H., Wednesday, August 1, 2018. Brittany McElroy, as Mother Miriam Ruth, is at left. It is the first production by the organization's adult theatre troupe The Company, and performances will be on August 10 and 11. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Stage Manager Stephanie Allen, of Newport, stands in as Dr. Martha Livingstone, middle, during a rehearsal of "Agnes of God" with Brittany McElroy, left, and Kirstie Small, right, at Amplified Arts iin Claremont, N.H., Wednesday, August 1, 2018. (Valley News - James M. Patterson) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Brittany McElroy, of Claremont rehearses a scene as Mother Miriam Ruth in "Agnes of God" at Amplified Arts in Claremont, N.H., Wednesday, August 1, 2018. It it the first play performed by the organization's adult theatre troupe The Company. Performances are on August 10 and 11. (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
Thursday, August 09, 2018

For her first onstage act since walking away from a career in theater almost a decade ago, Lauren Bushway this weekend will play the conflicted, middle-aged psychologist Margaret Livingstone in Amplified Arts’ production of Agnes of God.

The role fits eerily with the detour Bushway followed away from Vermont’s Johnson State University, where she was majoring in theater education.

After a break to deal with what she described as “life experiences,” she earned a bachelor’s degree in behavioral science from Granite State College, then took her current job as a protective services worker for the New Hampshire Division of Children, Youth and Families. She’s also pursuing a master’s in forensic psychology.

“I haven’t seen any cases quite like Agnes’,” Bushway said on Monday, before a dress rehearsal at Amplified’s theater in downtown Claremont, “but there’s been a lot I’ve learned that’s useful to me now.”

In preparing to cast the play — the first for The Company, Amplified Arts’ troupe for adult actors — Amplified founder and artistic director Shelly Hudson knew that she could count on Bushway, whom she’d directed in plays at Newport Middle High School between 2002 and 2007.

“She’s always been somebody who dives right in,” Hudson said on Monday. “She really likes to do the work that I require — the research and everything else that goes into it.”

Hudson started Amplified Arts as a program for teens in 2014. Bushway is one of the adults “I started to get requests from … to perform in this space,” Hudson said. “I’ve always wanted to have an adult component to Amplified Arts, and eventually I found the script and the cast to go with the space. The stars aligned.”

With her experience both on stage and in life, Bushway also fits well with Amplified Arts veteran Brittany McElroy, who plays the mother superior, and with Kirstie Small, whose previous theater experience is with backstage crews, as Agnes. On Friday and Saturday nights, they’ll be circling each other on Amplified’s sandwich-style stage, with two tiers of seats on either side of the acting space and sets for two separate scenes at either end.

“It’s very different from being on a proscenium,” Hudson said. “It takes a very different muscle to act on one, a little more like a cinematic experience.

“The actors cannot hide anywhere.”

Bushway has welcomed the spotlight since about 2002, when she portrayed a troll and a goblin warrior in a production of The Hobbit at Newport Middle High School.

“I got to be dirty and green,” Bushway said, “and to have blistering skin.”

Those roles led her to act in subsequent youth productions, including the lead in the Greek tragedy Medea, the Queen of Hearts in Alice in Wonderland, and Elizabeth Bennet’s mother in Pride and Prejudice.

“They’re all women of age and experience and wisdom,” Bushway said. “Even though Dr. Livingstone is a good deal older than me, I’ve been talking with older adult women in my life who have gone through some of the processes that she has, getting to middle age without having children and trying to make it as a professional woman.”

In John Pielmeier’s Tony Award-winning play, Livingstone confronts a mystery. She is called in to determine whether Agnes, a novice in a convent, is mentally fit to stand trial in the death of an infant to whom she gave birth — and who was subsequently found dead in a wastebasket — all with Agnes evincing no memory of even becoming pregnant or carrying the child to term.

As the sessions go on — alternating with scenes of Livingstone engaging in similar cat-and-mouse exchanges with the convent’s mother superior — they reveal unexpected ties between doctor and nun that test Livingstone’s atheism and understanding of reality.

Rehearsals of those sessions are flexing muscles that Bushway enjoys using again.

“It’s not going to be a career,” she said. “But it’s great to do it as an outlet.”

The Company performs Agnes of God on Friday and Saturday nights at 7 at Amplified Arts’ theater at 31 Pleasant St. in Claremont. Admission is $12. To learn more, visit amplifiedartsnh.org or call 603-856-5424.

Best Bets

Singer Cyn Barrette, bassist Peter Concilio, saxophonist Katie Runde and drummer Tim Gilmore play jazz on the theme of “Another Summer’s Day” this evening at 6, on the veranda of The Fells historic estate overlooking Lake Sunapee in Newbury, N.H. Admission is $40. The estate opens at 5. To learn more, visit thefells.org

Clarinetist Kinan Azmeh and pianist Dinuk Wijeratne perform compositions blending Arabic and South Asian rhythms with classical and jazz on Friday night at 6:30 at the Union Episcopal Church in Claremont. Admission is by donation to the West Claremont Center for Music and the Arts.

The Ramblers, Chris Kleeman, Brothers Band Together, Bow Thayer and the trio of guitarist Ted Mortimer, bassist Casey Dennis and drummer Marcus Copening perform a wide range of roots music on Saturday, during a Welcome Home Music Festival at the Veterans Affairs Medical Center in White River Junction. The gathering, which celebrates veterans back from overseas and includes a cookout, runs from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Admission is free.

The New York Theatre Workshop stages two plays-in-progress in Dartmouth College’s Warner Bentley Theater on Saturday, starting at 4 in the afternoon with writer-actor Leslie Ayvazian performing Mention My Beauty, her autobiographical journey through television and through the Broadway and off-Broadway scenes of the 1960s and 1970s.

And on Saturday night at 7:30, Taibi Magar directs We Live in Cairo, a musical written by brothers Daniel and Patrick Lazour about the Arab Spring uprising in Egypt in 2011.

For tickets ($9 to $13) and more information about these and the final play on Aug. 19, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

Fiddler Bruce Molsky leads his band onto the green in Hanover on Wednesday evening at 5:30 for a free concert of Appalachian and Celtic music. Before the performance, Molsky and Americana fiddler Tatiana Hargreaves will lead a 2:30 workshop on playing old-timey music in the Hopkins Center’s Alumni Hall; the fee is $10.

Organist Peter Douglas Kaplar plays works of Dieterich Buxtehude and other master composers of the early Baroque period at the First Congregational Church of Thetford, on Wednesday night at 8. While admission is free, donations are welcome.

Theater/Performance Art

The New London Barn Playhouse stages Newsies, Harvey Fierstein’s Broadway adaptation of the 1992 Disney movie about an 1899 strike by newspaper delivery boys in New York, through Aug. 19. To reserve tickets ($20) for these and subsequent productions, visit nlbarn.org or call 603-526-6710.

Opera North continues its Summerfest at Lebanon Opera House, starting with tonight’s 7:30 performance of Rossini’s Barber of Seville. Barber also will be staged on Saturday afternoon at 2 and Tuesday night at 7:30.

Performances of Jacques Offenbach’s Tales of Hoffmann are scheduled for Friday night at 7:30 and for Sunday afternoon at 5. For tickets ($20 to $90) and more information, visit operanorth.org or call 603-448-0400.

Claremont Opera House’s Repertory Theatre Company stages The Last Dance: a Zombie Musical, on Friday and Saturday nights at 7. For tickets ($12) and more information, call 603-542-4433, or visit claremontoperahouse.org or the box office in Claremont City Hall.


The Afro-Yaqui Music Collective blends songs and rhythms from indigenous groups from Africa, Asia and the Americas during the Feast and Field Market in Barnard tonight starting at 5:30.

Donna Thunders and The Storm perform “outlaw” country at Denny Park in downtown Bradford, Vt., tonight at 6. Admission is by donation.

Acoustic Radio plays rock and country music tonight at 7 in Lebanon’s Colburn Park.

The South Royalton Town Band performs on the Richard W. Ellis Bandstand in South Royalton tonight at 7, and during and after the parade at Sharon Old Home Day on Saturday morning at 10.

The Ashley Storrow Trio plays an acoustic set of folk on Friday night at 5:30, on the back lawn of the Woodstock History Center.

Tirade rocks the Haddad Bandstand in New London on Friday night at 6:30.

West Lebanon mezzo-soprano Erma Mellinger and Classicopia pianist Daniel Weiser collaborate on three concerts celebrating the Great American Songbook this weekend, starting Friday night at 7:30 at the Briggs Opera House. The duo moves to Windsor’s Rachel Harlow Methodist Church on Saturday night for a 7:30 performance, then concludes the mini-tour on Sunday afternoon at 1 at the First Congregational Church of Lebanon. For tickets ($18) and more information, visit classicopia.org.

Sensible Shoes performs on Elm Street in downtown Woodstock from 1:30 to 3 p.m. on Saturday, during the annual Taste of Woodstock festival. Other performers include Jim Yeager joining the Majic Box Band for a 4:30 set.

Harmony Hotel performs soulful songs at the Flanders Stage on Sunapee Harbor on Saturday afternoon at 5.

The Lefty Yunger Band plays Americana on the Orford bandstand on Saturday night at 7.

Pianists Sally Pinkas and Evan Hirsch perform the weekly concert on Sunday afternoon at 2 at the Saint-Gaudens National Historic Site in Cornish. Admission is included in the park’s entry fee of $10.

The Larry Dougher Band plays the blues on Sunday at 5 p.m., on the bandstand behind the Hartland Recreation Center.

Tammy Jackson performs country music at the Newport Common on Sunday night at 6.

Mellow Yellow plays tribute to pop hits of the 1960s and 1970s on the bandstand at the Fairlee common, on Tuesday night at 6:30.

Bluesman John Lackard performs at the bandstand at Lyman Point Park in White River Junction on Wednesday night at 6:30.

The Flames cover rock hits of the 1950s to the ’70s on Wednesday night at 6:30, on the Ben Mere Bandstand overlooking Sunapee Harbor.

Bar and Club Circuit

Singer-songwriter Chris White plays Peyton Place in Orford tonight at 6, and Bangkok Disco appears on Sunday night at 6.

Soulfix performs at Crossroads Bar and Grille in South Royalton on Friday night at 6:30.

The Chris Kleeman Blues Band plays Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Friday night at 9.

GrooveSum performs at the Engine Room in White River Junction on Friday night at 9.

Enfield native Brooks Hubbard plays Americana-inflected rock at Salt hill Pub in downtown Lebanon on Friday night at 9, and the acoustic-rock quartet Carter Glass appears on Saturday night at 9.

FLEW-Z frontman Alec Currier plays a set of acoustic rock at Hanover’s Salt hill Pub on Friday night at 9. And on Saturday night at 9, Chad Gibbs takes a break from his duties with Turner Round for a session of acoustic rock.

Chris Powers leads his trio The Frogz into Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon on Friday night at 9, to play a mix of rock, pop and country covers. Alec Currier plays a set of acoustic rock there on Saturday night at 9.

The Rich Thomas Duo plays acoustic rock at Newport’s Salt hill Pub on Saturday night at 9.

Rappers Jarv, Mister Burns, Dillon and Konflik pull into Windsor Station at 9:30 Friday night, as part of their Will Rap for Art Tour benefiting the Art Monastery Project in Springfield, Vt. Renegade Groove plays funk-rock on Saturday night at 9:30, and singer-songwriter Erik Boedtker performs on Tuesday night at 6.

Pianist Sonny Saul plays jazz at the On the River Inn in Woodstock on Saturday and Wednesday nights from 6:30 to 9.

Wild Leek River performs Vermont-flavored country at The Skinny Pancake in Hanover on Saturday night at 8.

Keyboardist Doc Winslow, bassist Tom Lord, guitarist Kit Creeger and drummer Bryant Harris play their weekly brunch gig at Poor Thom’s Tavern in Meriden on Sunday from 11 a.m. to 1 p.m.

Saxophonist Mike Parker and singer-guitarist Alison “AliT” Turner play at SILO Distillery in Windsor between 1 and 3 on Sunday afternoon, and then at Crossroads Bar and Grill in South Royalton on Tuesday night.

The Out on a Limb quartet performs roots music during the buffet supper ($10 to $25) at Loch Lyme Lodge with on Sunday night at 6. And the Lyme Town Band performs during the weekly cookout ($8 to $20) on Wednesday night at 5:30.

Saxophonist Michael Parker and guitarist Norman Wolfe play jazz at the Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm on Wednesday night at 6.

Open Mics

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

Fiddler Jakob Breitbach leads a weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music on Tuesday nights at 7 at The Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

Jim Yeager hosts open mics at Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland Four Corners on Wednesday night at 8, and at ArtisTree Community Arts Center in South Pomfret next Thursday night at 7.

David Corriveau can be reached at dcorriveau@vnews.com and at 603-727-3304. Entertainment news can be sent to highlights@vnews.com.