Welcome to the Opera House Arts website. You will find information on upcoming events and learn all about the historic Stonington Opera House!

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DIRECTOR'S NOTES: THE OHA BLOG

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Check out some clips of our latest live show, The DaPonte Sting Quartet





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STUART KESTENBAUM CELEBRATES NATIONAL POETRY MONTH WITH NEW BOOK AND READING

“Only Now” at Stonington Opera House April 24




Poet Stuart Kestenbaum will give a reading from his new book, Only Now, forthcoming from Deerbrook Editions this month, at the Stonington Opera House on Thursday, April 24 at 7 pm. The event is in conjunction with National Poetry Month.

“Stuart Kestenbaum's Only Now is a rare accomplishment: a collection of poems that takes on the fragility of the world and our own mortality, and does so with unflinching directness and, most impressively, with wit and a sincere prayerfulness,” Stephen Dunn, winner of the Pulitzer Prize for poetry, has written in advance praise for Kestenbaum’s new book.

STUART KESTENBAUM is the author of three collections of poems, Pilgrimage (Coyote Love Press), House of Thanksgiving (Deerbrook Editions), and Prayers and Run-on Sentences (Deerbrook Editions), and a collection of essays The View From Here (Brynmorgen Press). He has written and spoken widely on craft making and creativity, and his poems and writing have appeared in numerous small press publications and magazines including Tikkun, the Sun, the Beloit Poetry Journal, Northeast Corridor, and others and on Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. Former U.S. Poet Laureate Ted Kooser has written, “Stuart Kestenbaum writes the kind of poems I love to read, heartfelt responses to the privilege of having been given a life. No hidden agendas here, no theories to espouse, nothing but life, pure life, set down with craft and love.” Kestenbaum has been the director of the Haystack Mountain School of Crafts in Deer Isle, Maine since 1988. He is an honorary fellow of the American Craft Council and a recipient of the Distinguished Educator’s Award from the James Renwick Alliance.

Inaugurated by the Academy of American Poets in 1996, National Poetry Month is now held every April, when schools, publishers, libraries, booksellers, and poets throughout the United States band together to celebrate poetry and its vital place in American culture. Thousands of organizations participate through readings, festivals, book displays, workshops, and other events. Find 30 ways to celebrate National Poetry Month at the Academy of American Poets website

Admission is by free will donation the evening of the reading. For more information, call the Stonington Opera House at 207-367-2788.


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Live Cabaret Returns to Opera House with Contemporary Take on Romeo & Juliet

Goodnight, Nurse: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet as Told by Someone Who Was There

Check out this show's Cue Sheet!




Opera House Arts (OHA) is proud to present, on Saturday, April 19 at 7 p.m., an new live cabaret-in-development, Goodnight, Nurse: The Most Excellent and Lamentable Tragedy of Romeo and Juliet as Told by Someone Who Was There. Like OHA’s previous Shakespeare cabaret adaptations, Welcome Home, Hamlet (2012) and Congratulations, Macbeth! (2013), Goodnight, Nurse is crafted to tell a familiar Shakespeare story, Romeo and Juliet, from a contemporary perspective, using popular music to advance the adapted narrative. Goodnight, Nurse is written by Peter Lettre (OHA As You Like It, Macbeth, member of the recording band Barbez), directed by Peter Richards (OHA Brilliant Traces, Dying City, The Aliens, Elizabeth Rex), and features Rachel Murdy (OHA The Millay Sisters, Measure for Measure, and many others) alongside special guest, guitarist Orly Bendavid.

In the aftermath of the most famous double suicide in classical literature, Juliet’s Nurse is left to pick up the pieces. Like many a contemporary nanny, the Nurse is from a different world from the Capulets, and she’s been thrown under the bus after the tragedy of the star crossed lovers’ deaths. Juliet was like her daughter, and now the Nurse must deal with the pain and anger of losing a child who was like her daughter, but to whom she had no rights.

“There have always been lingering questions about the Nurse,” said director Peter Richards. “In our adaptation, she has to deal with her guilt and shame like the black star within us all, that pulls us with a gravitational force toward some things that are not good for us. Some resist this pull better than others.”

Good Night, Nurse employs the melodramatic style of grocery store checkout tabloids, as well as the music of Radiohead, Prince, Elton John, Coldplay and more to tell its tragic tale.

The cabaret has been specially crafted to work in conjunction with Opera House Arts’ Shakespeare immersion collaboration with the Deer Isle-Stonington schools. Murdy and Richards will spend three days with island high school students in a workshop employing character development as a tool for adaptation and deep reading of the text, Common Core essential standards. The artists and students will also participate in Discovery Night for the public on Wednesday, April 16. The collaborative, project-based learning partnership between OHA and the schools has featured, in addition to the cabaret and related workshops, a school-wide read of Romeo and Juliet, a viewing of the new film version of the play, two residencies by actor Melody Bates, author of this summer’s upcoming R&J&Z.

Director PETER RICHARDS has spent summers in Stonington his entire life. His direction credits for Opera House Arts include Peter Mattheissen’s Men’s Lives (2008), the dark comedy Brilliant Traces (2010), Dying City (2011), Elizabeth Rex (2011), and The Aliens (2012). He has additionally appeared on stage in multiple roles. Other theater acting credits include: Gone; Olly’s Prison; Dido, Queen of Carthage; Othello; Macbeth; Romeo and Juliet; Coriolanus; Spring Awakening and Fear and Misery in the Third Reich. Television and film credits include: “As the World Turns,” Stroke, and The Audition. He received an MFA in acting from A.R.T. Institute at Harvard University/MXAT and a BA from Harvard College.

Featured actor and chanteuse RACHEL BENBOW MURDY was most recently seen in Stonington as Norma Millay, Edna’s sister and the narrator of The Millay Sisters 2013 Gala production. She has additionally appeared in multiple Shakespeare in Stonington productions. Murdy originated one of the lead roles in Diane Paulus’ The Donkey Show: A Midsummer Night’s Disco.

“The Bridge Project” is one of an ongoing series of Local Stories projects in Maine elementary schools. For more information on the Project, see www.lauriedowney.net/schoolmurals. This project is part of Opera House Arts’ arts integrated teaching and learning partnership with its local schools, and is supported in part by grants from the Maine Arts Commission, the Island Education Foundation, and the Quimby Family Foundation.

For additional information about any portion of OHA’s The Bridge Project, including the community meetings, the new musical, or the educational project, please contact Opera House Arts at info@operahousearts.org, or 207-367-2788.


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The Bridge Project: 75 years of Spanning the Reach

Opera House Arts commissions new musical, year-long education program, parade to celebrate the 75th Anniversary of the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge




Prior to 1939, Deer Isle-Stonington were isolated fishing communities facing the sea. On June 19, 1939, the Deer Isle-Sedgwick Bridge was completed and dedicated, connecting Little Deer Isle with the mainland. How did the building of this bridge change life on Deer Isle, and in the surrounding mainland communities? In this 75th anniversary year, Opera House Arts at the Stonington Opera House (OHA) is exploring that question in creative ways with students and adult community members on both sides of the bridge, and is hosting two community meetings the week of March 3 for ways additional organizations and individuals can participate in this project.

On Tuesday, March 4 at 3:30 p.m., a meeting will be held for all those individuals wishing to participate with OHA’s new musical, The Last Ferryman, commissioned from Grammy winning composer Paul Sullivan. At this meeting, director Judith Jerome and artistic director Linda Nelson will outline the project, talk about casting, and dream together with attendees about how the new performance might work.

On Friday, March 7 at 2:30 p.m. OHA will host a community meeting for all groups and individuals interested in participating in a 75th anniversary Bridge celebration event at the bridge on Saturday, June 21. This community event will be organized around a parade across the bridge, and can include whatever celebratory events groups wish to host at Bridge End Park at the parade’s finale. Current collaborators on this event include the Bridge End Citizens Initiative, the Deer Isle-Stonington Historical Society, and the Deer Isle-Stonington Chamber of Commerce, as well as the Deer Isle-Stonington Elementary School and the Reach Performing Arts Center. All collaborators, existing and new, are asked to attend this organizational planning meeting.

Both meetings will be held in the Stonington Opera House. Please R.S.V.P. to Linda Nelson at lnelson@operahousearts.org, particularly if you are unable to attend but would like to participate.

The Last Ferryman will be given its world premiere at the Opera House August 14-22, 2014. This new musical, like OHA’s previous Dear Fish and Burt Dow performances, is based on historic research and oral histories about the creation of the bridge, materials gathered specifically for this project from community elders by students and adults. The musical is set on Charlie Scott’s ferry—the way to get across the Reach from Deer Isle prior to 1939—and features as characters Charlie, the last ferryman; Frank McGuire, to whom the bridge is dedicated; Raymond Scott, the treasurer of the original bridge initiative; and other historic community members. Individuals can participate in The Last Ferryman in multiple ways: as actors, singers, and dramaturgs: people with whom to think through the design elements, set, costumes--and events that might happen around the musical. OHA is also seeking additional objects and images to be used for the design and implementation of the musical’s set. Art Rotch, a native Mainer who is now the Producing Artistic Director for Perseverance Theater in Juneau, Alaska, is the scenic designer for the project. Rotch previously designed Women and the Sea and As You Like It for OHA, both in 2006. He is seeking additional historic images of the causeway before it was developed, and more general contextual photos from the 1930s: the towns, stores and merchants, goods, cars, steamboats, fishing boats, yachts on the Reach, ice on the Reach or the Harbor. Also people: Frank McGuire and his wife; Ralph Barter; Ray Small; families in general; the toll takers, passengers on the ferry or steamboats; farmers, the ferryman, bridge engineers, construction workers. Also objects from the era--or you may have other ideas of how to feed the design and story ideas! Photos can be sent electronically via email to info@operahousearts.org; dropped off at the Opera House box office on Main Street; or brought to the meeting on Tuesday, March 4.

An important, year-long component of The Bridge Project is a Local Stories project currently underway at the Deer Isle-Stonington and Sedgwick Elementary Schools. Third and fourth grade classes are researching local history, and will create a permanent mural and a performance based on that research. Students are guided by classroom teachers Judy Rhodes, Tasha Brown and Sharon Longley in collaboration with OHA-sponsored visiting artists Laurie Downey and Gretchen Berg and island historians Tinker Crouch and Connie Wiberg in this multi-disciplinary, integrated arts project. Students have been interviewing local elders who have grown up, lived and worked in Sedgwick and Deer Isle and are sharing their firsthand experiences and memories. Connie Wiberg, Bill Haviland, Sylvia Wardwell, Clair Grindle and Allie Webb have all shared their stories with students and The Bridge Project. Students heard stories of circus animals coming to Deer Isle by ferry; the terrors of crossing the “dancing bridge” (pre-cables); and romances made possible by the bridge. The classes have also taken a field trip to the bridge and Bridge End Park, where they asked questions of engineer Ken Sweeney and Deer Isle resident Loring Kydd. Students are keeping a visual project journals, including both writing and drawings, based on the stories they hear and see.

During a residency with the visiting artist team beginning May 22, students will paint the mural and develop a performance piece based on these drawings and themes from their research. On May 30, the third and fourth grade students will unveil the murals, created with visual artist Laurie Downey, in a celebratory event open to the community along with a performance based on their research directed by theater artist Gretchen Berg. The murals will be hung as permanent installations in the hallways of both schools.

“The Bridge Project” is one of an ongoing series of Local Stories projects in Maine elementary schools. For more information on the Project, see www.lauriedowney.net/schoolmurals. This project is part of Opera House Arts’ arts integrated teaching and learning partnership with its local schools, and is supported in part by grants from the Maine Arts Commission, the Island Education Foundation, and the Quimby Family Foundation.

For additional information about any portion of OHA’s The Bridge Project, including the community meetings, the new musical, or the educational project, please contact Opera House Arts at info@operahousearts.org, or 207-367-2788.


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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.


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