The Hippo


Nov 19, 2019








Late this summer, the Actorsingers produced the Green Day musical American Idiot. Courtesy photo.

Year in Review: ART
A look at creative commotion in 2015

By Kelly Sennott

There were a lot of ups and downs in the 2015 art scene, but in Ginnie Lupi’s opinion, most of the action was positive.

“I think the big thing happening is that the state of New Hampshire is recognizing the economic impact of arts and culture in our state,” Lupi, director of the New Hampshire Department of Cultural Resources’ Division on the Arts, said via phone last week.
The biggest example of this is when House Bill 279 was passed, establishing a commission to study the economic impact of arts and culture in New Hampshire. 
“This year, things have finally started to converge, with the addition of that ‘A’ in STEAM [the education acronym that stands for Science, Technology, Engineering, Art, Math], and there’s a general recognition in high-tech communities that arts and cultural education are essential for building creativity in the workforce,” Lupi said. 
Among artists and organizations, we’ve also seen an influx of new creative start-ups, leadership changes, risk-taking theater ventures, birthdays and some goodbyes as well. Here are some highlights.
Theater action
“I would say, there [has] been an incredible amount of revivals ... and there [has] been a [good] amount of literature-based plays,” said Mia Moravis, press coordinator for the New Hampshire Theatre Awards, last week. She mentioned Cat on a Hot Tin Roof, done by both the Seacoast Repertory Theatre and the Milford Area Players, and Carousel by the Windham Actors Guild.
There was also a lot of risk-taking. Most companies raised the bar considerably, she said, especially in production quality. Sweeney Todd by the Concord Community Players had set pieces with chutes and special-effect carving knives (engineered so they wouldn’t actually break the skin), while the Seacoast Repertory Theatre stepped up its game with this summer’s Avenue Q, for which directors Brandon James and Ben Hart created all 50 puppets by hand. StageCoach Productions’ Big Fish showed the tale like a storyteller.
“[Local companies] just do everything you can do with a shoestring budget and make incredible stuff happen,” Moravis said. “Big Fish was a really big deal. [That show] just got off of Broadway, and it didn’t run long. … It was StageCoach Productions’ swan song production. They did a really great job of catching you up in the story.”
Youth companies pushed the bar in 2014 and they did so again when this summer the Nashua Actorsingers took on an Adam Sandler musical, The Wedding Singer, and a slightly older group of Actorsingers performed the Green Day musical American Idiot. Also at the Janice B. Streeter Theater, the Peacock Players produced a steamy, dance-heavy take of Chicago this fall. 
As for new theater, kids performed original or re-imagined works at Andy’s Summer Playhouse, and theatre KAPOW produced the world premiere of Uma Vida Imaginária, an adaptation of a book by Brazilian author Nick Farewell. And just before Christmas, The Alchemists’ Workshop started touring its new jazz musical, Lessons, inspired by a Tomie dePaola book, Now One Foot, Now the Other, around New Hampshire.
Many theaters celebrated important birthdays. The Palace Theatre ended its 100th season, the Majestic Theatre turned 25, and the Capitol Center for the Arts and the Children’s Theatre Project both had 20th birthdays.
This year also meant many goodbyes. Beth Ann O’Hara, best-known for spearheading New Thalian Players (and who was the first Lifetime Achievement Award from the New Hampshire Theatre Awards and is mom of comedian Sarah Silverman) died in August at age 73. Stage Force in Portsmouth also ceased operations after nine years of theater due to increased competition and the inability to grow audiences, according to a release, and the Artists Collective Theatre in Nashua took a break for the 2015-2016 season.
Some art hubs die, some are born
There were many new art galleries and art centers that opened in New Hampshire this year. In Amherst, Betsy Craumer formulated Creative Ventures Gallery, and in Manchester, Grace Burr opened a new framing studio and gallery across from the Palace Theatre, Creative Framing Solutions. Farther north, paper artist Adele Sanborn formed Twigg’s Gallery in Boscawen, and after much anticipation, 3S Artspace in Portsmouth finally opened doors.
There’s been no action yet, but New Hampshire Institute of Art representatives announced that, in 2016, the school will transform the historic St. Anne’s Church in Manchester into a youth arts education lab. 
But many others struggled. East Colony Fine Art closed its doors in Manchester but members continue to present pop-up galleries every couple months. Picker Building owner in Nashua Jack Bolger announced to tenants mid-October he’s retiring and has accepted an offer from Clocktower Place Apartments to buy the building and turn it into housing by next summer.
Leadership changes
In late spring, Jane Oneail became executive director of the League of New Hampshire Craftsmen, and shortly after, Andy’s Summer Playhouse saw Jared Mezzocchi appointed as its new artistic director.
On the seacoast, Kathleen Soldati stepped in as the new executive director at the Discover Portsmouth Center; Seacoast Repertory Theater’s Miles Burns and Kathleen Cavalaro took on permanent artistic and executive director positions, respectively; and the Portsmouth Symphony Orchestra hired Virginia Macdonald as its first executive director.
When Manchester Community Music School CEO Billie Tooley announced her resignation due to family matters, former education director Judy Teehan stepped in. And most recently, Johanna Landis of Amherst assumed the role of executive director for Piccola Opera; Alice Pearce of North Woodstock became executive director of NH Made; and Currier Museum of Art director and CEO Susan Strickler announced she would resign by June 2016. 

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