Greensboro creates true community arts center
The Lowe Down
Jim Lowe | April 15, 2017
Greensboro is a town of 770, often thought of as a tony summer community on Caspian Lake whose residents have included actress Greta Garbo, the late United States Supreme Court Justice William Rhenquist and Pulitzer Prize-winning author Wallace Stegner. So, it might come as no surprise that a $14 million theater is nearing completion there, just in time for summer.
The surprise, however, was its opening Thursday, granted an unofficial one. Students from the area school, Hazen Union High School in Hardwick, delivered an enthusiastic and funny performance of Shakespeare’s fantasy-comedy “A Midsummer Night’s Dream.” (They performed it earlier in the day for a student audience.
And the enthusiastic audience was hardly tony, rather a typical bunch of rural Vermont parents and kids. It may not have been a society party, but it certainly was a gala for everyone there.
The newly renamed Highland Center for the Arts is, first and foremost, a community center. Although it was designed as a home to topnotch professional theater — which is scheduled to begin in August — the newly formed nonprofit is already scheduling diverse entertainment, beginning with a grand opening celebration June 2-4, with something for just about everyone. (For information, go online to www.highlandarts.vt.)
The Highland Center for the Arts is a state-of-the-art, 300-seat thrust theater, loosely based on Shakespeare’s Globe Theatre, just off the East Craftsbury Road (2875 Hardwick St.), coming into Greensboro village. The three-story building, with a very tall theater, also features a 40-seat café, an art gallery, large rehearsal-performance studio, dressing rooms, offices and state-of-the-art technology.
In fact, the theater is splendid. Comfortable and commodious seating on two floors surround the stage on three sides giving excellent sight lines. The midsized stage is illuminated by modern LED lighting, offering maximum creativity. And the room is terribly elegant, yet warm and homey.
This theater is a gift of one man who tried to remain anonymous. But when the development review board didn’t quite trust the funding, Andrew C. Brown, a second-homeowner who first came to Greensboro as a child, came forth.
“By way of background, my family and I are part-time residents of North Shore Road,” Brown wrote the board, according to a Vermont Public Radio report.
“I first arrived in Greensboro at the age of 12 in 1968, when I became an orphan and was taken into care by the Carpenter family on Randolph Road. Friendships in Greensboro have kept me, and latterly my wife and children, coming back ever since. Although we have lived and worked and built a business overseas for the past 30 years, we have made Greensboro our American home.”
The new theater was originally intended to be the home of Greensboro Arts Alliance and Residency/ Mirror Theatre Company, which has been presenting summer professional and community theater in the town for several years. However, when that fell through, the Highland Center forged an agreement with Northern Stage to guide its first steps in becoming a professional theater.
The White River Junction professional theater company will be guiding the new theater’s professional community production of “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” Aug. 9-13, but it began by bringing its Shakespeare in the Schools program to Hazen. There, Eric Love, the company’s director of education, joined by development director and actor Amanda Rafuse, assisted classroom teachers in exploring Shakespeare’s text, acting techniques, history and team building. He co-directed Thursday’s performance with Hazen teacher Leanne Harple — and was forced to take on the role, inimitably, of Flute, due to a student’s last-minute withdrawal.
And the proof, as they say, is in the pudding. The students’ obvious enthusiasm and understanding of Shakespeare was palpable, despite some never having been on stage before. More interestingly, the imagination that went into their performances of all levels was most entertaining. They got it.
Greensboro is building a true community arts center the Vermont way.