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Highlights: Norwich native designs Dublin streets for Northern Stage’s ‘Once’

  • Scenic designer Alexander Woodward, watches the opening scene of dress rehearsal of "Once" at Northern Stage on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Actors Thom Miller playing Guy and Lily Talevski playing Girl move through a dress rehearsal of "Once" at Northern Stage on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.

  • Scenic designer Alexander Woodward on the set of "Once" during a break in rehearsal on Tuesday, April 9, 2019 at Northern Stage in White River Junction, Vt. (Valley News - Jennifer Hauck) Copyright Valley News. May not be reprinted or used online without permission. Send requests to permission@vnews.com.



Valley News Staff Writer
Wednesday, April 10, 2019

While watching the Tony-winning adaptation of Once several years ago, Northern Stage artistic director Carol Dunne resolved to stage it someday.

When you lead a theater you can make some of your wishes come true. Northern Stage’s production of Once is in previews Thursday and Friday and opens Saturday night.

She also got her wish to tweak the play’s setting, moving it out of the bar where most of the Broadway show’s action takes place and onto the Dublin streets. The show’s 12 performers also will sing and act in the aisles of the Barrette Center for the Arts.

“The show is about buskers and busking, so we wanted it as much as possible to be outside, where the musicians are,” Dunne said between rehearsals last week. “As in the movie, we wanted to bring in the street scenes and the street noise. We’re re-creating how the story is told.”

Helping Dunne bring that vision to life is Norwich native Alexander Woodward, now a New York-based theatrical scene designer who created the look of Northern Stage’s fall 2017 productions of A Doll’s House and of Frost: This Verse Business.

For much of the Once set, Woodward and the Northern Stage production crew have been mining scenic gold at the nearby Recover Store, which sells donated furniture, construction materials and housewares to raise money for COVER’s weatherization and home-improvement programs for low-income residents of the Upper Valley.

“Lots of shutters and windows and doors,” Woodward said this week. “It’s exciting when we can make the set feel real and help the community.”

It was the Upper Valley theater community that helped Woodward find his calling. At Marion Cross School, teacher Tracy Smith encouraged his knack for the visual arts, and at Hanover High School, Bill Hammond, director of The Footlighters theater troupe, had him design sets for the three annual musicals.

“Mister Bill would tell me, ‘This is a real thing,’ ” Woodward recalled. “ ‘You should go out and do it. You should believe in yourself. Your dream is achievable.’ ”

The encouragement of his teachers and internships with Opera North spurred Woodward to pursue first a bachelor’s degree in design at Ithaca College, then a master’s in set design at the Yale School of Drama. He has supervised scenic design for the last several years at the Williamstown (Mass.) Theater Festival.

“The big thing you learn is that you can’t work in this medium as a solo artist,” Woodward said. “There are so many people to interact with. It’s like an architect working with an engineering team.”

Woodward ranks his collaborators at Northern Stage, particularly production manager Jess Johnson, with any he’s encountered from Broadway to the Berkshires and across the country.

“Thanks to Jess, to me it felt effortless when we were doing Doll’s House and Frost in repertory,” he said. “It was exciting to take two pieces, like a puzzle, and keep taking them apart and putting them together. It was pleasing to have a salty and a sweet.”

Dunne said it’s pleasing to have a designer who grew up and started learning the ropes in the Upper Valley to set the scenes.

“He is from this culture,” Dunne said. “It’s another example of how theater has grown around here.”

Northern Stage kicks off its production of Once this week, with previews on Thursday and Friday nights at 7:30 at the Barrette Center for the Arts in White River Junction. It opens officially on Saturday night at 7:30 and runs through May 19. Northern Stage also is hosting open-mics in the lobby before each performance, at which Upper Valley musicians are welcome to play for tips from patrons. For tickets ($19 to $59) to the shows, and for more information, visit northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Best bets

The Seldom Scene weaves bluegrass rhythms through country, rock and pop at Chandler Music Hall in Randolph on Friday night at 7:30. The lineup features Dudley Connell on guitar, Lou Reid on mandolin, Ronnie Simpkins on bass, Fred Travers on dobro and Ron Stewart on banjo and fiddle. For tickets ($30 to $35) and more information, visit chandler-arts.org or call 802-728-6464.

Pete McBride screens Into the Canyon, his documentary about his 750-mile journey through the Grand Canyon in 2016, on Saturday night at 7 at Dartmouth College’s Spaulding Auditorium. For tickets ($5 to $15) and more information, visit hop.dartmouth.edu or call 603-646-2422.

■The Party Crashers return to Plainfield Town Hall on Saturday night at 7:30, to play the soundtrack for the Hand to Heart Project’s annual benefit dance and silent auction. Admission is by donation to Hand to Heart’s program of free, in-home massages to patients with advanced cancer.

■ Frydaddy shakes up the Newberry Market in White River Junction on Saturday night at 8, on behalf of the Mud Boot Boogie dance party. Playing a mix of funk, rock, ballads, blues and Latin rhythms are frontman Carlos Ocasio, keyboard player and saxophonist Ian Gollub, bassist Bill Craig, drummer Bob Sparadeo, trumpeter Dave Ellis and trombonist Don Glasgo. Admission is $10. The band is encouraging dancers to bring items of non-perishable food for donation to the Upper Valley Haven.

■Saxophonist Fred Haas leads guitarist David Newsam, bassist Dave Clark and drummer Les Harris Jr. into Dartmouth College’s Rollins Chapel on Sunday afternoon at 1, to play tribute to tenor-sax jazz master Stan Getz. Admission is free.

Theater/performance art

The Taming, comedic adaptation of Shakespeare’s Taming of the Shrew, staged by Shaker Bridge Theatre at Whitney Hall in Enfield. Performances Thursday, Friday and Saturday nights before closing on Sunday afternoon. Tickets cost $16 to $35.

■Mud Season Variety Show, Saturday night at 7 at Chandler Music Hall. Upper Valley and central Vermont residents perform improvisational comedy, dramatic readings, storytelling, dance and music. Admission $6 to $16. Reservations recommended.

Music

Swing Peepers, folk-roots, annual Maple-Mud concert at ArtisTree Community Arts in South Pomfret, Saturday morning at 10. Admission by donation.

■ Camerata New England Piano Trio, chamber works of Haydn, Mendelssohn and Joaquin Turina, Saturday night at 7 at First Congregational Church of Lebanon. To reserve tickets ($28 for ages 18 and older) and learn more, visit cameratanewengland.org or call 802-785-4833.

■Fifth Business, roots/Americana, monthly Coffeehouse Cabaret on Saturday night from 7 to 10, at North Common Arts in Chelsea. Admission $10.

■ Heliand Consort, chamber works of Brahms and the Schumanns on theme of “Kindred Spirits,” on Sunday afternoon at 3 at Fairlee Town Hall auditorium. Admission $5 to $10.

■Nicholas Edward Williams, roots/Americana, Sunday afternoon at 4 at ArtisTree Community Arts. Admission by donation.

Bar and club circuit

Whiskey Geese, roots/Americana, Thursday night at 6 at Peyton Place in Orford.

■Dr. Tom’s Band, light rock, Skunk Hollow Tavern in Hartland, 8 p.m. Friday.

■Andrew Merzi, alt-rock, Friday night at 8 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover; Mark and Deb Bond, folk-rock, Saturday night at 9.

■ Dougie & Rudder, rock, Friday night at 8 at Salt hill Pub in West Lebanon; John Lackard, blues, Saturday afternoon at 4.

■Singer-songwriter Ken Macy, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon; Off the List, rock and pop, Saturday night at 9.

■Dirty Double Crossers, roots/Americana, Friday night at 9 at Salt hill Pub in Newport; Alec Currier, acoustic rock, Saturday night at 9.

■Singer-songwriter Alison “AliT” Turner, Friday night at 9 at Margaritas in Lebanon.

■Turner Round, rock, Friday night at 9:30 at Windsor Station; Moxley Union, rock, Saturday night at 9:30.

■Jim Yeager, rock/funk, Monday night at 7 at Woodstock Inn’s Richardson Tavern.

■Saxophonist Michael Parker and guitarist Norm Wolfe, jazz, Wednesday night at 7 at Quechee Inn at Marshland Farm.

■Jazz pianist Sonny Saul, Wednesday night at 6:30 at On the River Inn in Woodstock.

Open mics

Jim Yeager hosts open mics on Thursday night at 7 at ArtisTree Community Arts; at The Public House in Quechee on Tuesday night at 6; and at Skunk Hollow Tavern on Wednesday night at 8.

■Alec Currier’s weekly open-mic at Salt hill Pub in Lebanon, Thursday night at 8.

■Sunapee Community CoffeeHouse, monthly open-mic at Methodist Church in Sunapee on Friday night at 7. Admission by donation.

■Joe Stallsmith’s weekly hootenanny of Americana, folk and bluegrass, Monday night at 6 at Salt hill Pub in Hanover.

■Fiddler Jakob Breitbach’s weekly acoustic jam session of bluegrass, Americana and old-timey music, Tuesday night at 7 at Filling Station Bar and Grill in White River Junction.

■Tom Masterson’s weekly open mic, Tuesday night at 7 at Colatina Exit.

Looking ahead

Taylor Ho Bynum leads the Barbary Coast Jazz Ensemble through one of the Hopkins Center’s free, informal Thursday Night Live programs at the Top of the Hop next Thursday night at 9.

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