A Midsummer Night’s Dream dances to life

Shakespeare outdoors for six shows

By Zachary Lewis

Ballet Misha and Theatre Kapow were excited when the Dana Center at Saint Anselm had the idea to present A Midsummer Night’s Dream and have it produced by these two innovative artistic organizations. They will perform together for six outside performances starting on Thursday, July 18.

Saint Anselm is no stranger to outdoor Shakespeare performances, notably hosting a recitation of the Bard’s sonnets each year on his birthday.

“I’d always admired other larger cities doing [outdoor shows] … I thought why can’t we do this here up here on the hilltop at Saint A’s,” said Joseph Deleault, Director of the Dana Center. “We present it in front of the beautiful Alumni Hall, which is at the center of campus, which is illuminated … it’s family-friendly and it’s really a great evening for everyone.”

Theatre Kapow has performed Shakespeare on the Green at Saint Anselm in the past, and Ballet Misha has performed the Nutcracker here. The Dana Center decided to partner with Ballet Misha “because they do such great work,” Deleault said.

The production features six actors from Theatre Kapow and 15 dancers from Ballet Misha. Cecilia Lomanno, a Ballet Misha company member, will serve as the seventh actor, performing the role of Puck.

“All of the actors and dancers are female-presenting, women and non-binary people, which is another thing that I think is really cool about our production,” said Emma Cahoon, director of the production.

Minimalism is a driving force of the production. “The costumes are very simple and the lighting is very simple,” Cahoon said. The music will come from the Mendelssohn score of the play.

Cahoon is a big fan of the classics.

“I really love working with plays that people have their own preconceived notions or associations with, and I think Midsummer is one of the greatest examples of that,” Cahoon said. “I think it’s really exciting to take pieces like that and enliven them in a way that people might not have encountered in the text before.”

Cahoon’s dance background has aided her in her professional directorial debut; she graduated in May with a BFA in Theatre Arts from Boston University.

“I find ways to communicate with [the performers] in a language that they already know, the dance language, and that happens to come really easily to me because I grew up as a dancer myself,” Cahoon said. “I was a tap dancer for quite a while and I also dabbled in ballet and jazz and modern.”

Those experiences lend perfectly to collaboration with New Hampshire’s premier ballet company. Amy Fortier, Director of Ballet Misha and its affiliate school Dimensions in Dance, is excited for the Midsummer Night’s performances.

“It’s really fun for me to get to work on a project like this because normally we just do ballet, right, or we just do dance and the dancers don’t ever have to speak,” Fortier said. The speaking roles are of the fairies in Queen Titania’s court.

“My professional dancers are playing the roles of … Peace Blossom, Mustard Seed, Cobweb, and Moss,” Fortier said. “They don’t have tons of lines but they do have lines, and it’s been fun having to work with them on that process because they’re definitely not used to having to speak.”

Ballet Misha does a full-length ballet version of A Midsummer Night’s Dream that Fortier first choreographed in 2010. For this version, she said, “They have edited out some of the text to condense it down to an hour-and-a-half-long production that they do straight through without an intermission.”

Aside from the speaking roles, the dancers are essentially an emotable and breathable set.

“The dancers are almost like a moving set because it’s a minimalist production and the dancers fill in the space on stage where maybe, normally, the set of a forest or the set of Athens would be,” Fortier said. “I am bringing in dancers to represent the fairies … I have dancers representing the woods that they go through and then I have dancers who are representing the transition back to the city of Athens and they do different types of dance movement to kind of convey the different moods of … Athens versus the forest.” How does a human mimic a tree? “The girls who are dancing as part of the forest have a really soft, languid movement. They’re moving very slowly to represent the forest behind the actors. The dancers representing the transition back into Athens, it’s more of a courtly dance. They’re wearing these white Grecian dresses. I’ve tried to keep it kind of statuesque.”

Everything that isn’t acting or music will be the dancers. “The dancers are the ambiance or the ambient noise in the background of the actors delivering their lines,” she said.

“It’s really exciting for us because we’ve only ever done it as a movement-based telling of the story…. It’s always really exciting for dancers to get to perform outside. There’s something really freeing about it. ” Fortier said.

A second production may be added to the roster for next year, “but we haven’t gotten to that point yet,” Deleault said.

Whether it’s the heartbeat-like iambic pentameter that draws attendees to the production, the beautiful swirls of movement of the dancers like a William Blake painting of the play come to life, or just the excuse to sit outside with the evening summer sky for a few hours, Shakespeare has been providing an escape for hundreds of years, and today is no different.

Shakespeare on the Green: A Midsummer Night’s Dream
Presented by the Dana Center, produced by Ballet Misha and Theatre Kapow
Where: Saint Anselm College, 100 Saint Anselm Drive, Manchester
When: Thursday, July 18, Friday, July 19, Saturday, July 20, Thursday, July 25, Friday, July 26, and Saturday, July 27, at 7:30 p.m.
Tickets: $25, free for kids 12; tickets.anselm.edu
Bring your own food, drinks, blankets, etc.

Featured image: Courtesy photo.

The Art Roundup 24/07/18

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

Snaps for Ovation: Legally Blonde The Musical will be presented by Ovation Theatre Co. on Friday, July 19, and Saturday, July 20, featuring performers ages 15 to adult, at the Derry Opera House (29 West Broadway, Derry). The show follows Elle Woods, who appears to have it all but whose life is turned upside down when her boyfriend dumps her so he can attend Harvard Law; Elle ingeniously charms her way into the prestigious law school, where she quickly realizes her potential and sets out to prove herself to the world. See ovationtc.com.

How very: Heathers: The Musical by Kevin Murphy & Laurence O’Keefe, based on the 1989 film, produced by Ro Gavin Collaborative Theater and presented by Hatbox Theatre (715-2315, hatboxnh.com) and Manchester Community Theatre Players, runs July 12 through July 21 with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at MCTP Theater at the North End Montessori School in Manchester (689 Beech St.). The musical is based on the 1989 film, the darkly delicious story of Veronica Sawyer, a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful, ruthless, shoulder-padded clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers. Tickets cost $28 for adults, $25 for students/seniors/members, $22 for senior members. See hatboxnh.com for content details.

Londonderry’s Concerts on the Common features East Coast Soul on Wednesday, July 24, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Londonderry Town Common (265 Mammoth Road). The band creates a high-octane live experience that keeps audiences on their feet, dancing and singing along with Motown classics of the 1960s as well as today’s hottest hits, and is one of the most highly sought after ensembles in New England, according to a press release. In case of inclement weather the concert will be held inside the Londonderry High School cafeteria. Visit concertsonthecommon.org.

Talking art: Twiggs Gallery, in partnership with Concord Makerspace, is launching the Third Thursday Discussion Series: Building Creative Communities beginning on Thursday, July 18, from 5:30 to 7 p.m. at Twiggs Gallery (254 King St., Boscawen) and will feature an open-style panel discussion inviting audience interaction and feedback that is free and open to the public. In a statement, Twiggs Gallery director Laura Morrison said, “Our goal is to engage the local creative community in discussions about how we can all work together to help each other grow, not only as creative beings but as a thriving creative community that benefits everybody.” The first discussion will concern “Concord Sound & Color,” a new two-day art and music festival that will be taking place at venues and outdoor locations throughout Concord in October, according to the release. The featured panelists are Fallon Rae, a co-owner of PILLAR Gallery+ Projects; Jessica Martin, Executive Director of Intown Concord; and Beth Fenstermacher, the Director of Special Projects & Strategic Initiatives for the City of Concord. Visit ConcordMakerspace.org and TwiggsGallery.org.

Zachary Lewis

Among friends

New Hampshire writer reads from new novel

In her new novel Beautiful and Terrible Things, S.M. Stevens follows the friendship of six individuals, from early, nascent stages to close knit, and uses their shared lives to explore a range of hot-button topics in an admirably even-handed manner. The author will read from it and sign copies at Bookery in Manchester on July 19.

The book is set in an unknown city, a bold decision intended to underscore the universality of many social issues in its pages, Stevens said by phone recently. “These conversations and events are taking place in a lot of Western countries today,” she said. “I just think the story means more to people if they can see it happening in what they consider their city.”

Racism, gender, climate change, mental health and immigration are all addressed. When it comes to the latter, Stevens hopes readers will take away one bit of knowledge. “One of my goals in writing this was to remind people that no matter what your view is on an issue, there are always real people behind the statistics,” she said. “We do well to remember that.”

Without being pedantic, Stevens presents social questions as a school teacher might, asking people to fully study and think them through. If readers don’t arrive at a place of compassion for the many struggles the book’s characters face, maybe they’ll come away with some understanding.

“I wanted to show various views on some of the stickier issues,” Stevens said. “Now, there are no two sides to racism — it’s just wrong — but immigration is a really complex issue. On that one, I tried to present varying views.”

The character Jess is a rising professional and the daughter of immigrants who’s sometimes needled about her citizenship status. Jess brushes off such queries, comfortable in knowing she’s U.S.-born to legally naturalized parents. That changes when a woman who works in her childhood home and helped raise her has an immigration problem that’s too complicated to write off as “those folks” coming across the border.

Stevens employs other real-life stories to highlight social questions. Jess dates a Black member of the group; witnessing him encounter systemic racism is an eye-opening experience for her. One character has mental health issues that his friends try to understand and help with; another is nonbinary and helps to explain their experience with delicacy.

The book’s main characters are all millennials; Stevens has two daughters in that age group. “They are more passionate about equality and the planet and social justice than most people I know,” she said. “I think characters on the cusp of age 30 are asking all those really cool questions about their lives. Am I in the right career? Should I be married by now? Do I want to have kids? That’s a really important stage of life for most adults. That was why I chose it.”

More than anything, the novel is a fun read about people from different backgrounds getting to know each other, doing things like enjoying weekend trips or going to a demonstration.

“I hope it entertains people,” Stevens said. “I think reading is a pastime unless you’re doing it for school and education. It should be fun, it should be entertaining, and you should love the characters and not want to leave them behind at the end.”

Much of the novel’s action happens at an independent bookstore one of the characters manages that becomes a flashpoint for looking at gentrification and who it affects. In the book’s acknowledgements, Stevens notes that the store is inspired in part by Gibson’s in Concord, where she once did a reading.

Stevens lives north of Hillsborough, having moved to New Hampshire with her husband in 2020 to live in a house on a pond that he’d built there 35 years earlier. Beautiful and Terrible Things is her second adult novel, following Horseshoes and Hand Grenades and two books written for younger readers.

S.M. Stevens
Author reads from her new novel Beautiful and Terrible Things, followed by Q&A and book signings.
When: Friday, July 19, 5 p.m.
Where: Bookery, 844 Elm St., Manchester
Tickets: free, register at eventbrite.com

Featured image: S.M. Stevens. Courtesy photo.

The Art Roundup 24/07/11

The latest from NH’s theater, arts and literary communities

Final days: The “Metalsum” exhibit at the McLane Center (84 Silk Farm Road, Concord; nhaudubon.org) closes on Friday, July 12. The show features rustic metal artwork with an emphasis on portraying the natural world by Jane Kolias, a New Hampshire native now residing in Vermont, according to the event website. The gallery is open from 11 a.m. to 5 p.m.

On stage: All Shook Up is presented by Majestic Productions will run on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m. at Derry Opera House (29 West Broadway, Derry, majestictheatre.net, 669-7469). The performance features the songs of Elvis Presley and takes place in 1955 in a square little town in a square little state where a guitar-playing young man changes everything and everyone he meets. It’s also loosely based on Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night, according to the press release. Tickets are $15 and $22.

Opera:The Pittsfield Players host an Evening at the Opera at the Scenic Theatre (6 Depot St., Pittsfield) on Friday, July 12, and Saturday, July 13, at 7:30 p.m as well as Sunday, July 14, at 2 p.m. with a fully staged production of the classicI Pagliacciby the Italian composer Leoncavallo, according to a press release. This one-act opera will be sung in Italian and will feature some singers from the NH Opera Idol competition as well as other emerging opera performers from all over the United States. A pre-opera event will offer a brief introduction to I Pagliacci by the director of the production, Jane Cormier. Tickets are $25 for adults and $20 for children and seniors. Visit pittsfieldplayers.org/tickets.

Heathers: The Musical by Kevin Murphy & Laurence O’Keefe, based on the 1989 film, produced by Ro Gavin Collaborative Theater and presented by Hatbox Theatre and Manchester Community Theatre Players, runs July 12 through July 21 with shows Fridays and Saturdays at 7:30 p.m. and Sundays at 2 p.m. at MCTP Theater at the North End Montessori School in Manchester (689 Beech St.). The musical is based on the 1989 film, the darkly delicious story of a brainy, beautiful teenage misfit who hustles her way into the most powerful, ruthless, shoulder-padded clique at Westerberg High: the Heathers. Tickets cost $28 for adults, $25 for students, seniors and members, $22 for senior members. See hatboxnh.com for content details.

Summer concert: As part of the town of Exeter’s summer concert series at Swasey Parkway (316 Water St., Exeter) on Thursday, July 11, from 6 to 8 p.m. the band Forside Funk will perform, according to the town’s website, which says Forside Funk combines soulful melodies, tight rhythms and electrifying horn sections, and takes listeners on a musical journey back to the golden era of funk. Exeter’s concert series has been a summer tradition for over 30 years and occurs every Thursday this summer through Aug. 15. Visit exeternh.gov/recreation/2024-summer-concerts-swasey-parkway.

The Circus: The Hideaway Circus will be at Brookford Farm (250 West Road, Canterbury) on Saturday, July 13, from 7:30 to 9 p.m.; Sunday, July 14, from 2 to 4 p.m., and Monday, July 15, from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m., with their new family-friendly show, called Canvas Sky, according to a press release. This outdoor circus brings together the thrill of classical circus with a contemporary narrative as world-class performers displays their skill and artistry, according to the same release. Tickets range from VIP $65 to Premium $45 to general admission $25, and children 3 or younger are free. Call 742-4084 or visit hideawaycircus.com.

Music in the gallery:As part of the Seacoast Artist Association’s Second Friday Music at the Gallery (130 Water St.) series, the SAA will present Terrie Harman on keyboards along with the vocals of Anne Corriveau on Friday, July 12, from 5 to 7 p.m., according to a press release. Harman is a contributing member of the American Guild of Organists, founded The Portsmouth Men’s Chorus, has volunteered on numerous art and music boards and serves as Director of Music at the Exeter Congregational Church, and has also served as Director of Music and organist in several NH Seacoast area churches, according to the release. Corriveau received a master’s degree in Vocal Performance and Pedagogy from the University of Colorado, continued her studies in Rome at the Accademia Internazionale delle Arti,gave several concerts throughout Italy, including for the Rome Opera Festival, and continues to study in Boston with Angela Gooch at Boston University, according to the same release. Refreshments will be served; admission is free. Visit their Facebook page or call 778-8856.

Londonderry’s Concerts on the Common features the Brian Maes Band on Wednesday, July 17, from 7 to 8:30 p.m. at Londonderry Town Common (265 Mammoth Road). Returning for their ninth year at Concerts on the Common, this band is packed with all-star musicians performing classic rock favorites by The Who, Springsteen, Led Zeppelin, Janis Joplin, Tears for Fears, Elton John and more. In case of inclement weather the concert will be held inside the Londonderry High School cafeteria. Visit concertsonthecommon.org.

Zachary Lewis

Not just summer stock

What’s happening at New London Barn

The Broadway musical bonafides of New London Barn Playhouse are solid. Wicked creator Stephen Schwartz wrote his first big hit, Godspell, there. Past “Barnies” include The Book of Mormon director Casey Nicholaw, along with Tony-winning actors Taye Diggs and Judy Kuhn. Laura Linney and Sandy Dennis are also alums.

Upcoming in the current season, which runs through Labor Day weekend, are Jersey Boys (opening July 17) and Rent (opening Aug. 7). These follow successful June productions of Little Shop of Horrors and Joseph and the Amazing Technicolor Dreamcoat.

Little Shop was something of a class reunion, according to New London Barn Executive Artistic Director Keith Coughlin.

“Of the 13 members in the cast, 10 are alumni who have returned to the Barn,” he said by phone recently. “Including some folks who were here not all that long ago and have then continued on and done some really great things in their career. The gentleman playing Seymour was just on Broadway.”

A pair of plays are also scheduled. Driving Miss Daisy opens July 10 for a five-day, seven-show run. The Pulitzer Prize-winning drama follows the relationship between a stubborn Atlanta widow and the chauffeur she’s forced to hire when she crashes her car. It spans from 1948 to 1973, beginning with prejudice and ending in friendship.

“Those that appreciate the movie will like this,” Coughlin said. “It is a wonderful telling of that same story of acceptance. One of the things that really sparked to me is how it shows humans connecting and growing. These characters grow over the decades, their relationships build, and their mindsets grow and change. I think that’s really powerful.”

Clue, running from Aug. 21 through Sept. 1, closes out the summer. Coughlin agreed that the adaptation of a movie based on a board game is a fun way to end the season.

“It’s murder and it’s farce,” he said. “In the recent past couple of years, they’ve actually done a new adaptation of this play that really strikes closer to the tone of the movie. I think it’ll be in the ride of the season, experiencing all of these different performances, with people laughing and just enjoying it, for sure.”

Jersey Boys continues a theme begun last year, shows based on the canon of pop music. It follows 2023’s production of Carole King: Beautiful. Along with the Barn debut of Rent, which Coughlin called “a cornerstone in the genre,” it’s the show he’s most looking forward to this year.

“After trying a number of seasons to get it in our lineup, I’m really excited to share that,” he said. “We have a wonderful director and choreographer who’s coming in to helm it that has been working on Broadway shows and productions in London. I think it’s going to be a lot of fun for our patrons. Tickets are already going quick.”

Finally, on July 22, the Barn’s first-ever concert happens, as Steven Leslie performs a tribute to James Taylor.

“I jokingly say that almost every night of the summer there’s some type of performance happening,” Coughlin said. “But there are a couple of nights that are not, [and] I thought that this might be an interesting idea to do something … different than sort of the normal theater productions that we do.”

It’s part of an expansion effort that includes operating as a year-round entity, he continued.
“The Barn will always be celebrated by the work that we do inside the barn in the summer,” he said, “but we’re growing in impact to the community in a way that’s really exciting. That’s the next chapter… we have a dynamic education team that’s doing some really powerful things for our community all year long, not just within the summer.”

Driving Miss Daisy
When: Wednesday, July 10, 7:30 p.m.; Thursday, July 11, and Friday, July 12, 2 & 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, July 13, 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, July 14, 5 p.m.
Where: New London Barn Playhouse, 84 Main St., New London
Tickets: $34 to $59 at nlbarn.org

Music, arts and eats

The Currier Museum of Art holds its annual Block Party

By Zachary Lewis

The Currier Museum of Art will be hosting its annual Summer Block Party on Sunday, July 14, from 3 to 7 p.m. The entire community is invited to take part in this fun and free celebration of art and Manchester.

“Hopefully those that have not been to the museum before or for a long time can come and get to enjoy the museum for free,” said Karen Graham, interim director & chief operating officer of the Currier Museum of Art. She expects a good turnout.

“We typically get upwards of 2,500 people,” she said. Usually the building and the whole grounds are full of people enjoying the event.”

Guests can enjoy the fun inside or outside the museum.

“The first year we did it we weren’t sure if people would be interested in going into the galleries or if they would just stay outside because there are so many activities outside,” Graham said, “but the galleries … they were the most crowded of any day during the year during the Block Party.”

Some activities at the Block Party will be inspired by the museum’s new Daniel Otero Torres exhibition, “Sonidos del Crepúsculo (Twilight Sounds).” This is the first exhibition at a U.S. institution of the work of Colombian-born and Paris-based artist Torres. Activities will include a clay leaf project as well as a chance to “create watercolor seascapes inspired by the Stories of the Sea show,” according to the Currier’s website.

There will be a stamp printmaking station set up to mimic abstract patterns like the ones in Elisabeth Kley’s installation in the museum’s Welcome Gallery.

Outdoor activities are held in the Museum’s courtyard, some under tents. The event is held rain or shine.

“We close part of Ash Street on the side of the building and all of Prospect in front of the building … between Ash and Beech,” Graham said. This is where you’ll find food vendors including Deadproof Pizza, Consuelo’s, Arnie’s Place ice cream, Don Quijote, Chez Rafiki and the Gyro Spot as well as ice cream from Ben & Jerry’s.

Beer and wine will be plentiful; the Currier typically crafts specialty cocktails based on its current exhibitions.

“We close off the parking lot, obviously, and that’s where the wine and beer tent, the musicians, and all the art activities are, throughout the whole grounds of the museum,” Graham said.

Live music will be performed outdoors by Joey Clark and The Big Hearts, and Party of the Sun. “We had both of them play here on different occasions in the past and the crowd loved them both,” Graham said. Laura Boyce from Rock 101’s Greg & the Morning Buzz will act as emcee.

It’s a good time to sign up for a Museum membership, if you haven’t already.

“New members that join as a member that day, they’ll get a discount. We’ll have some of our staff walking through the crowds inviting people to become members at a discounted rate,” Graham said.

And, as Graham noted, there’s always face painting. It’s one of the most popular activities at the Block Party. “We make it our biggest tent … when we used to leave it up to requests the line would circle the building, so now we pick and give them a few options to pick from … so there’ll probably be a fish, a mermaid, things like that.” The face painting will be themed to go with the current “Stories from the Sea” exhibit. Central High School’s Art Department volunteers with the face painting and are led by museum staff.

That combination of art and the community brings joy to Graham.

“I just love an opportunity to have so much of our community come together in the summer and enjoy art. We always hear the best comments from people that say, ‘Oh, I haven’t been here since I was a kid taking an art class and now I’m coming back with my own kids…. People really, really love the opportunity to come in and see the art.”

The Currier’s Summer Block Party
When: Sunday, July 14, from 3 to 7 p.m.
Where: 150 Ash St., Manchester
Admission: free
More: currier.org, 669-6144

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