Opera House Arts Breaks Ground
Seven year planning period and final capital campaign result in additional bathrooms, more amenities for patrons
Opera House Arts (OHA) proudly put a shovel in the ground on Thursday, October 23, launching the construction of its new scene shop and lobby, the final components needed to complete its restoration and revival of the 1912 Stonington Opera House, on the National Register of Historic Places. The milestone comes with 10% of the project funding remaining to be raised, and after seven years of planning for best ways to sustain the Opera House as a vital cornerstone of Stonington’s Main Street and the local and regional economies of Deer Isle and the Blue Hill Peninsula. It marks an exciting and important moment for OHA’s ongoing Completing the Scene: A Capital Campaign for the Second Century of the Opera House.
“We still have $100,000 left to raise to complete this project,” said Producing Artistic Director Linda Nelson. “But with winter coming on and our desire to finish construction by next summer, it is important to get moving. We hope everyone who cares about the future of the opera house will be inspired to participate, at any level, when they see progress being made.”
The new construction addresses the nonprofit organization’s critical, functional needs for a scene shop, additional rest rooms and a new gathering space for food and refreshments, all while preserving the beloved, historic look and feel of the theater’s interior and exterior. The shop space addresses health and safety needs for staff and volunteers, while the new lobby meets the top two audience requirements, for improved access to bathrooms and food services, identified in several community surveys. OHA, in collaboration with Brooksville’s Eric Chase Architecture, selected Deer Isle contractor B.K. Burgess via a competitive bid process for the job. The goal is to open the new lobby in time for OHA’s 16th Annual Gala Benefit July 6, 2014.
Thanks to the generous and enthusiastic support of its Board of Directors and other donors, Opera House Arts has raised more than $850,000 toward the required goal of $975,000 to fund these final renovations to the theater. $550,000 of this was committed by board members.
Opera House Arts is a 501 (C) 3 nonprofit organization and all gifts made to the Completing the Scene Campaign are fully tax deductible. Contributions of any size are welcome and may be made in cash or stock, and pledged over a five-year period. To participate in completing this campaign, please contact Producing Artistic Director Linda Nelson at firstname.lastname@example.org, or by calling 207-367-2788. Additional information can be found by clicking HERE
Growing Local, New Film in Special Opera House Screening
Opera House Arts (OHA), the Island Culinary and Ecological Center, and Maine Farmland rust are proud to present the new film, Growing Local, Sunday, November 16 at 5 p.m. The screening will be followed by a panel discussion with local farmers.
Growing Local is a collaboration between Maine Farmland Trust and Seedlight Pictures. The film points to both the vibrancy and the growing pains of the local food movement in Maine, and the uncertain fate of the farmers and farmland that keep it alive. The film contains three short vignettes: “Seeding A Dream,” “Pig Not Pork,” and “Changing Hands.” Each focuses on a different challenge hindering the growth of the local food movement, and points toward possible solutions.
“While many are aware of the challenges faced by small farmers today, these three short films weave together the interconnectedness of farms, community and health in a unique and innovative way,” said John Piotti, President and CEO of Maine Farmland Trust. “They make us think about our values, about things we may take for granted, and, most importantly, what we can do to effect positive change."
Growing Local recently debuted at the Camden International Film Festival. More information and a schedule of upcoming shows can be found on the Maine Farmland Trust website.
Tickets are $5 and available at the door at the time of the screening. Further information about this event can be found by calling 207-367-2788.
Maine Farmland Trust is a statewide, member-powered nonprofit organization working to protect farmland, support farmers, and advance the future of farming. For more information on specific programs, visit 97 Main St. in Belfast or www.mainefarmlandtrust.org.
The Island Culinary and Ecological Center in Stonington is committed to providing education and training which will lead to expanded job opportunities for youth in the fields of culinary and hospitality arts, with an emphasis on sustainability and increased public awareness of the island’s resources, culinary potential and ecological diversity. For more information please see www.edibleisland.org.
MEN’S LIVES BY PETER MATTHIESSEN TO BE STAGED AT STONINGTON OPERA HOUSE
Opera House Arts announces expansion of Staged Community Reading Series, and a workshop, as part of 2014-15 Season
Men’s Lives, a staged version of Peter Matthiessen’s acclaimed book of the same name on the disappearing fishing communities of Long Island, kicks off the 15th season of Opera House Arts’ “Our Own” Staged Community Playreading Series November 12-13 at 7 p.m. at the Stonington Opera House. Auditions for the staged reading will be Tuesday, October 21 at 7 p.m. at the Opera House. The reading launches an expansion of this popular series, which will include four additional titles, guest directors, and guest artists, as well as a musical theater workshop.
“The ‘Our Own’ series--staged community reads and dynamic, facilitated discussions of classic and contemporary dramas--are a cornerstone of OHA’s role in our communities,” said Producing Artistic Director Linda Nelson. “I am thrilled to be able to expand these opportunities in this coming season.”
Based on the documentary book of the same name by Peter Mattheissen, Men's Lives intimately explores the impact of social, economic, and ecological change on the traditional fishing families of Long Island Sound during the middle of the 20th century, and has clear resonances for local communities. The voices of the Baymen (and women) themselves ring clear, even in the midst of confusion and conflict. An elegy for a culture, and a call to arms- or, more importantly, reflection- Men's Lives portrays a version of the American Dream that will be familiar to many on the Maine Coast- where working on the water is not just about making a living, but about how you live your life.
The expanded series, co-curated by actor and director Peter Richards, will feature guest directors and artists to offer community members a variety of opportunities to hone their acting experiences. Deer Isle’s Morgan Witham, an actor (10 Real Star Acts at Opera House Arts; The Pajama Game) and director (most recent credit, The Pajama Game, Reach Performing Arts Center), will guest direct Men’s Lives. New York City based actor Per Janson (Romeo and Juliet, R&J&Z, Antony and Cleopatra, 10 Real Star Acts at Opera House Arts) will be the guest artist. Roles include Walt, a life-long fisherman, and his wife, two boys, and nephew; a narrator; friends of the family; as well as faces of the opposition to commercial fishing.
Men’s Lives is the first in a five-play series of staged readings being offered by Opera House Arts in 2014-15. Additional titles and dates include: The Mountaintop by Katori Hall (February 11-12); Columbinus by the United States Theater Project (March); Anna Christie, Eugene O’Neill’s classic New England drama (May); and Under Milkwood, a radio play by Dylan Thomas (August). All performances will be followed by facilitated Talk Backs.
In addition to these dramas, OHA is offering community members a winter workshop to further develop important stage (and life!) skills. Actor and director Amy Kyzer, OHA’s Artistic and Development Associate, will lead “Sing Me a Story,” a seven-week musical theater workshop, from February 16 – March 30. Please call the Opera House box office for details or to register.
OHA’s “Our Own” Community Playreading Series celebrates its 15th anniversary season in 2015. Everyone, regardless of experience, is encouraged to participate in the “Our Own” staged playreadings, which require a maximum of 20 hours of rehearsal time over the course of a week to 10 days, and no memorization. The series presents an excellent opportunity to read new plays with their writers present; and to explore issues, drama, direction, and performance through scripts.
To register for auditions, please email email@example.com or call 207-367-2788.
OPERA HOUSE ARTS ANNOUNCES 15TH ANNIVERSARY SEASON FEATURING ORIGINAL PRODUCTIONS ON THE THEME OF TRANSFORMATION AND CHANGE
Special season will also celebrate retirement of founding Artistic Director Judith Jerome
Opera House Arts (OHA) is pleased to announce major programs and dates for its 15th anniversary season, including two original theatrical productions in summer 2014. The upcoming season will also celebrate the work and honor the retirement of founding Artistic Director Judith Jerome on November 1, 2014. The theme of OHA’s 2014 season—which is also the 75th anniversary of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge, connecting the Stonington Opera House’s home to the mainland—is Transformation and Change, reflecting both the large cultural change represented by the bridge opening, as well as the structural change of the Opera House in Jerome’s retirement.
The season will be anchored by two original theatrical productions. Beginning July 3, OHA will unveil a special Shakespeare in Stonington production featuring a new play by OHA affiliated artist Melody Bates. Titled R&J&Z (Romeo & Juliet & Zombies), the production was developed over two years of artist residencies in the community and school, in repertory with an original production of the Bard’s masterwork, Romeo and Juliet.
On August 14, OHA will premiere The Last Ferryman, directed by Jerome, a new “popera” commissioned by OHA from Grammy Award winner Paul Sullivan to tell the story of the creation and impact of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge. Like R&J&Z, The Last Ferryman is the culmination of year-long school and community research and participation. The opening of the bridge, connecting Stonington and the extended community to the mainland, represented an enormous cultural change.
“These programs are fitting ways to celebrate Judith’s retirement,” said Richard Howe, chairman of the Opera House Arts’ Board of Directors. “They highlight the originality, creativity, and community engagement at the heart of OHA’s mission and the program she has helped to develop so strongly over 15 very busy years.”
The opening of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge 75 years ago, on June 19, 1939, was a moment of huge cultural change for Deer Isle and its primary economic center, Stonington. Dependent until then on the kindnesses of weather and ferry service, islanders access to the mainland, including to critical medical services, was often blocked by time (the ferry stopped running at 6 p.m.) or temperature (Eggemoggin Reach froze over several winters in the period just before the bridge opened, making crossing dangerous or impossible). Through its year long The Bridge Project/The Last Ferryman, a close collaboration with the schools both on the island and across the bridge in Sedgwick as well as with the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society, OHA seeks to give community members, participants, and audiences a chance to study, understand, and discuss major community change, and the ways communities deal with broad cultural shifts such as this.
Likewise, the development of Melody Bates’ original script, R&J&Z, which takes off from Act V of Romeo and Juliet and introduces the concept of traditional Haitian notions of zombie-ism to Shakespeare’s tragedy of star-crossed lovers, and is also deeply integrated with school and community while exploring a moment of significant cultural change. Romeo and Juliet are the new, young generation of Montagues and Capulets: and they don’t fit. Are they doomed to extinction, or does the metaphor, magic, and horror of R&J&Z open for us the possibility that their tale lives on in perpetuity, a gateway to a new world order? In collaboration with the Deer Isle-Stonington High School, both scripts are part of a year long “Shakespeare Immersion” program, sponsored by OHA, for students in grades 9-12, in which all island students are reading Romeo and Juliet and having multiple opportunities to see performances and films of it, as well as to participate in the development of R&J&Z.
OHA’s 15th anniversary season begins November 1, 2013, the start of its new fiscal year. In addition to the large original summer performances, it includes a very special Valentine’s Day concert by the Daponte String Quartet, Whirlwind Romance; in March, the premiere of a solo performance developed from Chapter 7 of John Steinbeck’s The Grapes of Wrath, also celebrating its 75th anniversary in 2014; in April the premiere of a one hour, educational cabaret version of Romeo and Juliet, Juliet’s Sweet Sixteen; and a concert version of West Side Story as OHA’s Annual Gala Benefit on July 7.
“I’m very proud of how much original programming we have in development this year,” said Jerome. “Commissioning and developing new performance relevant to our particular communities is at the heart of what we do, and we’ve more in the pipeline as we look toward 2015 and beyond.”
JUDITH JEROME is one of four founding members of Opera House Arts, founded in 1999 to restore the 1912 Stonington Opera House, on the National Register of Historic Places, to its central role as a community arts institution at the heart of Stonington’s Main Street and working waterfront. She shared Artistic Director duties with founding co-Artistic Director CAROL ESTEY through 2006. Jerome holds a Ph.D. in Performance Studies from New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, for which she was awarded the Monroe Lippman Award for Distinguished Dissertation in 2007. She began her performance career in the bosom of her large storytelling Texas family, and then with the renowned Dallas Little Theater in 1956. She raised three daughters and performed in most of the theaters in Denver, CO in the two decades leading up to her move to New York in 1995, writing and performing much of her own material. She worked closely with the Colorado Council on the Arts, as a visiting artist in schools and communities, as a teaching artist with the Colorado Aesthetic Education Institute, and as a supervisor of artist’s residencies. In New York City she has performed at Dixon Place, HERE, Peculiar Works Projects, among others. She was managing editor of Women and Performance: A Journal of Feminist Studies from 1996-1999, and taught as an adjunct professor at NYU before helping to found Opera House Arts. At the Opera House, in addition to her role as Artistic Director, she is known for both her stage performances (Lace, a solo spoken word piece detailing island geneology; The Ferry Musicals: the Moose Boy; The Duck Variations) and direction (Women and the Sea; Last Gas).
While retiring from her administrative duties as Artistic Director, Jerome will continue with OHA as a member of its Board of Directors and on an annual consulting retainer to direct special projects. In response to Jerome’s retirement, OHA will restructure staffing along more traditional lines for a theater of its size, naming current Executive Director Linda Nelson as Producing Artistic Director and creating additional administrative staff lines reporting to Nelson for development, marketing, and artistic support.
Opera House Arts (OHA) is one of only a handful of year-round theaters in Maine to operate under an Actors Equity Small Professional Theater contract. OHA not only presents but commissions and produces new work from Maine artists. The Opera House, part of the Maine Performs network, has become a noted destination for performance in Maine. Showing movies nearly continuously since 1918, the Opera House converted to true digital cinema in March 2013 and is open 52 weeks a year with a full schedule of film and exciting original events unlike the schedule of any other theater in Maine.