The Highland Center for the Arts (HCA) in Greensboro, Vermont has engaged Northern Stage (NS), a professional producing theater company based in White River Junction, Vermont to assist with artistic and educational programming and general management consultation services on an interim basis, beginning immediately and extending through September 2017. The partnership will draw on NS’ expertise in the management of rural arts centers to help HCA launch its inaugural summer season. This new collaboration will be headed by NS Managing Director Eric Bunge and supported by the resources and talents of NS’ leadership team of world-class professional arts producers and managers. The HCA and NS partnership will focus on three areas: readying the new HCA facility for opening; working with staff to advance HCA’s artistic and administrative skills; and curating and producing an introductory series of artistic offerings for HCA’s inaugural summer season.
HCA’s board chair Melanie Clarke led the negotiations to enlist NS in this unique partnership. Clarke states, “I am thrilled that HCA will have the opportunity to work with and learn from the artists and producers of Northern Stage during our opening season. Our board chose this route as an ideal way forward to steward the extraordinary gift of the Highland Center for the Arts to Greensboro. What impresses me most about Northern Stage is their history of success serving their audiences and connecting with their community through artistically excellent productions and innovative programming. In addition to their talent, passion and artistry, they utilize superb systems of management and control which have allowed them to realize their artistic goals and achieve financially sound results. This collaboration will empower Highland to be what it aspires to be for our community and will help us incorporate what matters to our community in our ongoing planning and programming.”
NS will shepherd HCA through its opening summer season with two pilot programs designed to lay the groundwork for HCA’s future productions. The first program is a Shakespeare in the Schools partnership with Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, Vermont. NS Director of Education Eric Love will assist classroom teachers in exploring Shakespeare’s text, acting techniques, history and team-building. The project will culminate in a final presentation of scenes from A Midsummer Night’s Dream slated for public performance on HCA’s mainstage in April, 2017. “We have seen an incredible impact on the students Northern Stage has worked with through this type of program,” Bunge says. “It is thrilling to know that Hazen Union students will be the very first performers on the HCA stage. It’s a perfect fit for HCA’s vison of gathering people together to participate in the arts.”
The second pilot program will be a full production of Shakespeare’s comedy A Midsummer Night’s Dream, to be performed on HCA’s mainstage during the summer. This community/ professional collaboration will be the Highland Center’s first self-produced play and will involve professional actors and professional theater support personnel as well as community members in on-stage and off-stage roles. Bunge states, “HCA’s Midsummer will bring Shakespeare’s most popular comedy to beautiful life while involving members of the Greensboro area community in myriad creative ways.” Audition dates and crew calls for community members will be announced in April.
Additional programming for HCA’s upcoming summer season is in the final planning stages and will be announced in early April, 2017. This includes music performances, film series, educational programming and events produced by several of the area’s arts and civic organizations. Art exhibits and curated shows featuring the region’s visual artists are also planned and will rotate from June 2017 through May 2018. HCA’s official opening weekend is June 2,3 and 4, 2017 and will feature free performances and receptions.
Since last summer, HCA has welcomed local residents and representatives from local and state-wide arts organizations to tour its construction site. When the building is completed, HCA will resume tours of the campus and will host a series of forums for the public to learn about HCA’s programs and to encourage the public to participate and contribute to the development of HCA based on the community’s interest.
In addition to securing a collaboration with Northern Stage, HCA’s Board is actively searching for an Executive Director to lead artistic planning and programming and forge partnerships and collaborations in support of enriching art experiences and engaging the local community. Plans to recruit new members to HCA’s board are ongoing.