The After Dark Music Series started in 1995. It's mission is to bring some of the best nationally known Blues, Western Swing, Folk, Celtic, Americana, Acoustic performers to Middlebury, VT in an intimate setting.Â
For more information:Â http://www.afterdarkmusicseries.com/
Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra
The experience the Champlain Philharmonic Orchestra seeks to provide combines inspiring concerts and community engagement projects with a nurturing environment for amateur and semi-professional musicians to perform great orchestral music. Their work is designed to honor the heritage of orchestral music while ensuring its future.
For more information: Â http://champlainphilharmonic.org/
A new semi-professional theater company in Middlebury Vermont.
Middlebury Community Players
For more information: www.middleburycommunityplayers.org
Opera Company of Middlebury
OCM presents grand opera in the intimate confines of THT. Auditions are held in Vermont and New York City for performances in early June.
For more information: www.ocmvermont.org
Mid-Vermontâ€™s premiere professional ensemble, producing 2-3 challenging plays each year.
For more information:www.middleburyactors.org
Our homegrown womenâ€™s barbershop chorus, under the expert direction of Lindi Bortney.
For more information: www.maidenvermont.com
Town Hall Theater's own young acting troupe. New shows twice a year in conjunction with Town Hall Theater's education department.Â
The creators and producers ofÂ Nightfires.Â
Tom Munschauer (President)
I was born in a small, one room, log cabin in Buffalo, NY sometime in the last century. I am a UVM graduate and Graduate of Cornell University School of Veterinary Medicine. I moved to Middlebury in 1986 and bought the Middlebury Animal Hospital in 1988. I work primarily as a veterinarian, but did a year of teaching at VTC during the 2008-09 academic year. I have served locally on the Addison County Humane Society and the Festival on the Green Boards. I have been on the THT board for 9 years
George CadyÂ (Vice President)
Sue and I moved to Middlebury after raising two children in Rye, New York. I have been a banker, CFO, and real estate investor in the New York City area since 1974. In 2010 I moved my real estate and Â investment office to Middlebury. In Rye I was a Board member of the Rye City School District, President of the Rye Â Youth Council, and a Little League and soccer coach. I have been an active volunteer for Middlebury College involved in Â fund raising and admissions and am on the Board of the Friends of the Art Museum. I graduated from Middlebury College Â and Harvard Business School and our two children are recent graduates of Middlebury.
Walt Deverell (Treasurer)Â has been the Treasurer and Board Member of Town Hall Theater from its inception in 1998. "I have been thrilled to watch THT grow from an idea to a real gem in the heart of Middlebury." Â Walt was born in Wilmington, Delaware in 1947 and served in the military from 1965 - 1969 (Texas, Massachusetts, Vietnam, Montana). Â He attended Western New England College, Springfield, MA (BS degree) and became a certified public accountant in 1973. Â He is married to Mary Ann Deverell, his children are Adam & Rebecca, and he is proud of his grandchildren, Grace, Jack, & Eve.
Â Peter DeGraff (Secretary)
I am a third generation Vermonter and grew up in Essex Center, Vermont. After graduating from UVM with a degree in Â Civil Engineering and marrying Lyn, we moved to Massachusetts for four years. Realizing that we wanted to raise our Â family in Vermont, we moved to Middlebury in1990. I am a Â licensed professional civil engineer and president of Otter Â Creek Engineering in East Middlebury. Our firm specializes in Â the design of public water systems and site development. I Â am past president of the Vermont Chapter of Engineers Â Without Borders, an international service organization, and a Â technical advisor to the University of Vermont's Student Â Chapter. I also serve on the Porter Hospital Board of Trustees, Â am a past trustee and president of the Ilsley Library Â Board of Trustees, and past member of the Henry Sheldon Museum Â Board. I live in East Middlebury with our two Â daughters and mother-in-law.
Susan moved to Middlebury with her husband Ben in 2008. Â She completed her undergraduate studies at Albion College and received a masterâ€™s degree from the School of Social Service Administration at the University of Chicago. Â Most of her career as a social worker focused on health care and aging. Currently Susan is the administrative partner in a consulting practice with her husband here in Middlebury. Â Over the years Susan has served on a number of healthcare, community service and arts related non-profit boards.Â She is active in the Episcopal Church and has served on vestries of two congregations. Â Susan is an enthusiast of quilting, hiking, gardening, yoga and skiing.
Bruce Baker grew up in Ohio where he attended Bowling Green State University, graduating with an MA in Jewelry and Enameling. He moved to Middlebury just after college where he taught Jr. High School at MUHS for 3 years. He is a jeweler by trade, and owned Middlebury Jewelry and Design for 17 years. His jewelry line can often be seen at shows in the Jackson Gallery or at Sweet Cecily on Main St. in Middlebury. When not making jewelry, Bruce works as a retail sales and merchandising consultant across the country and abroad. Main Street organizations and small business development centers are his primary clients. He lives with his wife Nancie Dunn in Middlebury.Â
Trained as an architect in Ghent, Belgium, Pieter came to the US to study archaeology and architectural history, respectively, at the University of Minnesota and at Yale University. He is a professor of History of Art and Architecture at Middlebury College and currently serves as the collegeâ€™s Director of the Arts, overseeing seven departments in the arts, the Mahaney Centerfor the Arts, the Middlebury College Museum of Art, and the Performing Arts Series.Â
Serving on the board of the Town Hall Theater helps him to forge a meaningful and strong town-gown relationship as it pertains to the arts, to the benefit of both the college and town communities. Â Pieter is married to Ilaria Brancoli Busdraghi and they have two children, Simon and Tobias. They live in Middlebury.
Dan grew up in Ithaca, NY and graduated from the United States Naval Academy in 1971. He received a Masters degree from the Naval Post Graduate School. He retired from the US Navy after a long career as a Naval Aviator. He moved to Middlebury in 2004 and with his wife Michelle and currently owns and operates the Swift House Inn and Jessicaâ€™s Restaurant. Before moving to Middlebury he and Michelle were innkeepers for 15 years owning inns in Annapolis, MD, Deer Isle and Portland, ME. The Browns have two sons, one serving in the US Navy and the other in the New Zealand Navy. Dan currently serves on the board of Directors of the Professional Association of Innkeepers and Select Registry-Distinguished Inns of North America. He also serves on the Addison County Chamber of Commerce Board of Directors and previously served on the Better Middlebury Partnership Board.
Bruce and I moved to Cornwall in 2000, returning to the scene of our mutual Middlebury College experience. Until 2000 New Jersey was home - Moorestown (south) in my growing-up years and Ridgewood (north) for the rest. Among varied activities, for 20 years my major commitment was to children in state custody and in need of permanency, through serving (as an "arm of the court") on the executive council of the NJ Child Placement Advisory Council, on state panels, and as chair of my county's Child Placement Review Board. In Vermont I'm using that experience as a guardian ad litem for the same children. Being part of a downtown Ridgewood park restoration sparked my enthusiasm for the magical transformation of the Town Hall Theater and the community benefits it brings. Other local interests include: vice chair of the HOPE board, Porter Auxiliary board (former), Middlebury College committees and programs, and a bunch of athletic diversions. Broader "interests": two children and five grandchildren.
Benjamin (Benj) Deppman
Benj Deppman joined the Board in 2011. He is a 43 year old attorney in private practice at Deppman & Foley, PC, a law firm in Middlebury. He has two children and enjoys spending time with them. Benj is currently serving on the Boards of Directors for Addison County Fair & Field Days, Inc.; Porter Hospital Auxiliary; Middlebury Area Little League; the Governorâ€™s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports; the Middlebury Maple Run. He is also on the Scholarship Committee for the Middlebury Lions Club. He also likes to run on local roads and trails in his free time. Benj has yet to appear on the Town Hall Theater stage, but does have aspirations!
Serena Eddy GuilesÂ lives in Middlebury with her husband Tim and their four children. She runs RSVP, a small non-profit that places volunteers in the community, and loves volunteering for the Middlebury Community Players as Music Director and Conductor. Her past adventures have included: living in Paris as an au pair for the children of a French Count, rowing for the United States in the 1992 Olympics and biking over both the Middlebury and App Gaps in one day. Her current favorite pastimes are baking wedding cakes, singing with Maiden Vermont, sharing the stage with her family and arranging a cappella jazz standards for her quartet.
Sue and I moved to Cornwall in 2000 and I three quarters retired in 2003. I graduated from Yale in 1961 and Sue and I were married in 1962. Shortly before we were married, I was commissioned as a Marine Corps officer and served for three and a half years. After completing active duty (I never saw a shot fired in anger and I escaped going to Vietnam by 30 days on my date of commissioning), I spent two years at the Harvard Business School and graduated with an MBA. I was recruited to be President and COO of Watts Industries located in Andover, Massachusetts in 1983. In 1993 I was recruited to be Chairman and CEO of SPS Technologies located in Jenkintown, Pa. Both Watts and SPS were publicly traded New York stock exchange companies with extensive international operations. In 2003, SPS was sold and I partially retired. I am now a general partner in Tinicum Capital Partners and serve as Chairman of the Board of three manufacturing companies where Tinicum has a significant investment. In Middlebury, I served as Chairman of the Comprehensive Planning Committee for the Champlain Valley Unitarian Church. This committee was responsible for the planning, fund raising and construction of the new sanctuary, which recently opened for worship. Sue and I have three children and eight grandchildren. We are fortunate that two of our children and five of our grandchildren live in Vermont.
Ashar Nelson is a lifelong Vermonter, residing in East Middlebury. His attachment to the theater began at Middlebury Union High School when he worked on lights and sets for school productions and worked with visiting summer theater troupes. He has a Bachelorâ€™s Degree in Art History from Middlebury College and a Masterâ€™s Degree in Architecture from the University of Oregon. He was lucky to work as the architect on the recent Town Hall Theater renovations and addition. As a Principal Architect at Vermont Integrated Architecture and part-time faculty in the Architectural Studies program at Middlebury College, he is committed to promoting sustainable building designs and innovative building craft. Ashar is also delighted to be a faculty advisor and instructor in support of Middlebury Collegeâ€™s 2011 and 2013 Solar Decathlon efforts.
Â Kate Tilton
At 19, I moved to Vermont from Pennsylvania, and the transplant Â was an immediate success. Living in southern Vermont Â in the early 80's , I was part of a team running a restaurant , from the kitchen end of things. From there I went to college, where theater probably should have been my major, but I went for a BFA instead.Â I have been an avid theater supporter in many roles in recent years , mostly backstage working with props and stage management. I love being part of the magic behind the performance, as well as Â part of a thriving creative community here in Middlebury. Â I enjoy teaching children's art and cooking classes through Middlebury studio school and also supporting community theater though being on the board of Middlebury Community Players.
Doug led the campaign to save and revive Town Hall Theater, a ten-year effort. He teaches part-time at Middlebury College, and is the artistic director of the Opera Company of Middlebury. In a prior life he was head writer on the CBS day-time drama, Guiding Light. He lives with his wife Debby in East Middlebury.
Elinor Steele Friml
Box Office Manager & Jackson Gallery DirectorÂ
Email:Â email@example.comÂ orÂ firstname.lastname@example.org
Ellie studied fine arts and music at UNH, and in the tapestry program at Edinburgh College of Art in Scotland. She is a nationally recognized designer/weaver of contemporary tapestries working as Elinor Steele. She lives in New Haven with husband Bill and children Nick and Tina.
Lindsay PontiusÂ has been an actor, director, and teacher for over 25 years. She has been a teaching artist with Empire States Partnership for Arts-in-Education, and a presenter at regional conferences on best practices in school/ museum partnerships and arts integration. Recently Lindsay completed her doctorate in Leadership and Policy Studies at the University of Vermont. She lives across the lake in Westport, NY with 2 dogs, 4 cats, 4 goats, and 13 horses.
Haley recently moved from Georgia (the state) where she taught college theater, acted, directed and wrote funny plays. She lived in Burlington for three years before her Georgia hiatus, and is delighted to be back in the Green Mountain state. In this picture, she's the one on the left.Â
Interim Technical DirectorÂ
Jess hails from a small town in southern Connecticut. Â She was drawn to this beautiful state seven years ago to study Theater Education at Castleton State College, where she gathered infinite tools of the trade and a fire was lit for technical theater. Â Although Jess had a brief stint as the "Big Cheese" at the Happiest Place on Earth, she has found her niche right here, in the Vermont community theater scene, which Â landed her here at THT as Interim Tech Director. Â When she isn't scurrying around THT, Jess is the full-time theater aide at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center's Addison Repertory Theater program. Â
Â Joshua Cote
Assistant Technical Director
Josh was born and raised in small town Rhode Island. He wandered into Vermont in 2009 to attend Castleton State College. Three majors and five years later, Josh has found a passion in the arts and a home in the green mountain state. He does not enjoy long walks on the beach because sand is evil. When he isnâ€™t doing the THT thing Josh is roaming Vermont with all manner of bands, putting up shows and spreading the joys of music. In a perfect world Josh would make a living working in an awesome small theatre with a great group of individuals who want nothing else than to put on the best shows possibleâ€¦oh wait!
Box Office Assistant & Front-of-House Manager
Kendra Gratton is a musician and teacher from Bristol, VT. She is a veteran performer and choreographer for the Middlebury Community Players and other Vermont groups. She brings her love of people and love of theater into work at the THT Box Office.
Deborah Laframboise grew up in Addison County. She holds a BS degree from Trinity College with a double major in Accounting and Business Administration. After 11 years as a corporate accountant she started her own business in Real Estate Investment. She also works Part time as the Accountant for the Vermont Folklife Center and joined Town Hall Theater in 2008. Debâ€™s hobbies are her 3 year old Daughter Amanda, Animals, Music, Photography and Real Estate investing.
Box Office Assistant
Eileen is a native of Addison County. Having moved away, Eileen came back home,Â being unable to resist. She has worked with many nonprofits, mainly museums, but has caught the theater bug along the way. She currently resides in Waltham.
Karen Lefkoe, Publicity Email: email@example.com
Â Mary Longey, Production Stage Manager
Interested in playing the Town Hall Theater?
Touring companies, musical acts, and entertainers of all kinds should contact THT Executive Director Douglas Anderson at firstname.lastname@example.org
Describe your act and include a link to your web site, if available.
You may also send your materials to:
Town Hall Theater
PO Box 128 Middlebury, VT 05753
A History of Town Hall Theater
Theatrical history is highlighted by triumphant returns to the stage by legendary performers. It is less frequent, however, for the stage itself to make a triumphant return. The restoration and reopening of Middleburyâ€™s Town Hall Theater is one of those rare, even miraculous, occasions.
Letâ€™s go back 125 years to February 16, 1883. A special Town Meeting has been convened to discuss the burning issue of where to establish a new center for Middleburyâ€™s social and cultural life. The site is Academy Hall, home of the Addison County Grammar School and Middlebury College at the beginning of the 19th century, and now home of the Middlebury Graded (Elementary) School (standing approximately on the current site of Twilight Hall).
The Academy has long since been deemed unsuitable for public use. A wood structure, the 83-year-old building is clearly a fire hazard, particularly given its public meeting space on the third floor. There is strong support to relocate the center of community cultural and social life to the east side of Otter Creek â€“ delayed payback, perhaps, for the decision to locate the College on the west side of the creek in 1800.
A committee of community-minded citizens has inspected eight locations. The most promising property is the site of Epaphrus Miller's fine 1811 brick house and tavern. Situated here, the new Town Hall would occupy a prominent site overlooking the town green. The contract to design and build the structure is awarded to Clinton Smith and William Allen.
Smith, Middlebury's most influential architect, formed an architectural construction firm with Allen in the 1870â€™s. Examples of Smith's frame style, featuring elaborate window frames, moldings, and brackets could be seen up and down South Pleasant Street. The firm would also design and build the new Addison County Courthouse, the Beckwith Block, Shard Villa and numerous other local buildings.
One year later, the new Town Hall was complete. The exterior of the beautiful new edifice boasted a soaring tower and two magnificently original chimneys. The main floor was a spacious 600-seat theater and balcony. Town offices occupied the basement. According to Glenn Andres, esteemed Middlebury professor and local architectural historian, the Town Hall isâ€¦
â€śâ€¦a vigorous building, with powerful asymmetric massing and a bold use of contrasting stone and brick. The brickwork itself is a mason's delight, creating flush patterns and sculptured textures to pick out and enliven various portions of the facade. The marble details not only emphasize certain elements of the building, but also serve to tie together the various masses. There were originally four cherry doors at the entrance, and the gaslit interior had a stage with an ash and cherry proscenium and a scenic curtain of the Gulf of Venice done after a painting by the English artist Stanfield.â€ť
The building opened on February 13, 1884, with a Masquerade Ball. On Friday, February 15, 1884, the Middlebury Register reported the gala event.
An exceptionally pleasant company of about fifty couples gathered at the new town hall on Wednesday evening for the eleventh annual masquerade party. The costumes were more varied and elaborate than on any previous occasion of the same character. The unmasking, which took place at 10 oâ€™clock, was highly entertainingâ€¦This was the first time the new town hall had been used, and afforded a good opportunity for the public to see the building. The gallery and stage were filled with spectators.
For more than a decade, the Middlebury Opera House, as it was often called, hosted an impressive array of theatrical events. The list includes town meetings, religious services, childrenâ€™s operettas and plays, traveling and local theatricals, balls, dances, and proms, lectures and orations, concerts, readings, political rallies, a tuberculosis exhibit, meetings of the DAR, the WCTU, and Masons, dog and pony shows (literally), minstrels and Hibernian (Irish) shows, Middlebury College Junior Exhibition and Commencement exercises, benefits and charity balls, Middlebury High School graduations, tableaux vivants, local school tests and common teachersâ€™ exams, fairs, dance recitals, music festivals, national holiday and memorial services, and novelty exhibitions including glass blowers, bell ringers, a wax museum, a monumental clock, and exhibition of Edisonâ€™s wondrous new phonograph. On January 1, 1898, nearly fifteen years after it opened, the Opera House celebrated its 100th theatrical performance. Although vaudeville and other events continued, it was the art form of the 20th century â€“ the cinema â€“ that would eventually dominate the schedule.
Early in 1922, P.S. Murray took over the reins of the Opera House from J.M. Peek. The following year, the Town ordered a complete overhaul of the 40-year-old building to adapt it to the new requirements of a movie theater. In March 1937, the theater was closed again in order to prepare the building to meet its first serious challenge -- the opening of the Campus Theater on Main Street. The Campus was not only a fully modernized movie house, it was a member of the Graphics Theater circuit, theaters throughout New England that exhibited first-run films and offered two matinees and two evening shows daily.
A refurbished Middlebury Opera House, renamed Town Hall Theater, opened in May, 1937, under the management of Kenneth Gorham. Despite the addition of new projection equipment, sound system, rest rooms, and comfortable upholstered seats, THT â€“ not on the Graphics circuit â€“ generally had to settle for second-run films and â€śBâ€ť pictures. Widely considered the inferior movie house in town, in later years it became known for malfunctioning projectors, film that snapped mid-reel, and rowdy behavior from college students and locals alike.
In 1958, after a seventy-five year residence, the Town offices moved to the old Middlebury High School, and the building was purchased by Sam Emilo, who tried to make a go of it as a furniture store. In October, 1960, the main floor and stage was filled with Buicks for, of all things, a car show. Eventually, Sam created the Belmont, a restaurant popular with local residents, not only because of Marion Desrocher, its well-loved manager and cook, but because it boasted a dance floor.
Once the town sold the building, however, its physical appearance changed drastically. The ornate stage and curved balcony were ripped out and the stained-glass windows bricked in. A dropped ceiling and wood paneling were added. Over time, multiple cracks appeared in the masonry walls. The exterior brick walls, buckling under the weight of the leaky slate roof, began tilting at dangerous angles â€“ a full 12â€ť out of plumb â€“ and bat and bird guano accumulated in the rafters.
The Knights of Columbus bought the building in 1968, and ran it successively as a meeting hall and community space. Among the Knights who were active in those early years were John Adams, Bob Bergedick, Andy Bourdon Sr., Clayton Breiner, Frank Broughton, Bill Collins, Jules Denis, Clement Gagne, Marcel Rheaume, Stan Stefanski, Lucien Paquette, and Bob Whittemore. Many will remember dinners and bingo games in the space, and the After Dark Music Series performed there to the delight of folk music fans. Everyone in town had to stop by the building every few years to get their driverâ€™s license.
In the late 1990â€™s the aging building was in need of a great deal of repair, and the Knights wrestled with the idea of selling their beloved building. Eventually it was decided that the building would be sold for $275,000, to a community group led by Douglas Anderson.
Douglas Anderson and his wife Debby, residents of Middlebury for more than 15 years, had most recently been the owners of Dada, a popular local culinary supply store. Andersonâ€™s background, however, went far beyond this retail venture. After 14 years on the theater faculty at both Middlebury and Amherst colleges, he moved on to a highly successful career in theater and television as a multifaceted actor, director, and writer.
Anderson wasted no time in mobilizing community residents who shared his passion and vision. Within two years, Town Hall Theater, Inc. â€“ a new non-profit corporation -- had a hard-working Board of Directors and $500,000 in the bank. Early support came from the Lions Club of Middlebury, the Rotary Club of Middlebury, the Walter Cerf Fund, and Middlebury College. The building was purchased in 2000. Almost immediately, THT hired Bread Loaf Corporation to design and build the project, with a team headed by architect Steve Schenker and project manager Dutton Smith, Jr. Keefe and Wesner Architects, Vermontâ€™s premier historical restoration firm, were brought on to oversee the restoration.
Scores of promotional events would follow in the next five years, Community Demolition Day on May 19, 2001, brought in members of the community to spend the day removing the interior â€śimprovementsâ€ť of past renovations to reveal an entire wall of windows for the first time in decades. Completion of the interior demolition was underwritten by a major grant from the Preservation Trust of Vermont.
In September, Middlebury Remembers brought together long-time residents to reminisce about THT over the past seven decades. Moderated by former town clerk Dick Goodro, a highlight of the event was a showing of The Movie Queen, a film shot in Middlebury in 1939. In October, the 1st Annual Rotary Club/THT Variety Show launched a new showcase for local talent.
Community support proved extraordinary. Early on came the Stagehands, a corps of 70 residents charged to solicit donations. The sold-out Toast the Town Hall series, â€śintimate dinners and small performance events in private homes,â€ť was organized by Joann Langrock and an energetic Events Committee. The building had no heat, but performances could be presented in the summer months. In May, 2002, the Kander & Ebb Broadway classic Chicago was a smash hit, a production of the Middlebury Community Players. Sellout audiences, amazed by the high caliber of the performances, saw this as a clear indication of the limitless potential of the space. Middlebury Actors Workshop came next with an evening of short plays, and two more hits followed in August with Encore! the popular local musical group, and Jefferson and Adams, the acclaimed historical drama, starring Bill Barker and Sam Goodyear.
Among the scores of devoted community volunteers and donors, a leadership group emerged including Maxwell Eaton Jr. (Board President); Peter & Elisabeth Holm (Co-chairs, Capital Campaign); Bruce & Sue Byers (Board. VP; Co-Chairs, Major Gifts); David & Jean Littlefield (Co-chairs, Honorary Committee); and Peter & Joann Langrock (Legal Counsel, Chair Events Committee).
In 2003, major work on the building exterior began in earnest. Projects included structural stabilization, a new slate roof, copper cresting, a replica of the original weathervane, restoration of bell tower, and the recreation of gingerbread molding on the south gable, the work of Jack Brown of East Middlebury.
Before this phase of the project was over, 59 windows had been removed, restored, and reinstalled. 3000 bricks were replaced, the Pleasant Street garden was created, and a grant from the Middlebury National Bank underwrote the creation of the beautiful new porch and steps.
2003 events began with THTâ€™s 1st New Yearâ€™s Eve bash, which drew a large crowd to a completely unheated theater. At a Governorâ€™s Reception in May, Vermont Governor Jim Douglas spoke eloquently in support of efforts to save Vermontâ€™s historic buildings, and raised $50,000. A second summer season included a wild production of Shakespeareâ€™s Twelfth Night, set in Texas, 1959.
The highlight of the 2004 fundraising campaign was the $100,000 Got Your Brick? campaign. Proposed by Middlebury Professor Rich Wolfson, the campaign would sell bricks removed from the windows to the public for $100 each. For $250, bricks would be engraved and reset in the new Pleasant Street Garden. Initially viewed as a â€ścrazyâ€ť idea, Got Your Brick? was a wild success and raised more than $100,000. In May, the Great Middlebury Birdhouse Exhibition raised an additional $18,000. THT also hosted the MUHS Junior Prom.
The big story of 2005 was the Saga of the Great Bell. In 1887, Middlebury selectmen purchased a great Meneely bell, the largest in the county, to serve as a community fire alarm and to announce the town curfew at 8:50 p.m. In April 1961, then owner Sam Emilo removed the bell from the tower with the intention of selling it for scrap. Local resident Theron Wolcott and other concerned citizens tracked it down and negotiated to buy it back. To raise the necessary funds, they set up â€śA Buck for the Bell,â€ť a subscription campaign asking local residents to contribute $1 each to save the bell. The campaign a success, the bell returned to Middlebury and was placed on the lawn of the Henry Sheldon Museum on Park Street, where it sat for over 40 years.
On July 3, 2005, the museum graciously and theatrically returned the bell. A ceremony on the porch of Henry Sheldon Museum honored those who gave a buck to save the bell, a number of whom were in the audience. The bell was loaded on a wagon and pulled through town, carried along by the music of Bud Leedsâ€™ Dixieland Band. G. Stone Commercialâ€™s forklift raised the 1569-pound bell 35-feet into the air. It took a suspenseful hour to maneuver the massive bell into place. Crowds cheered when, for the first time in a half century, the bell pealed out, rung by Angelo Lynn and Paula Simons, who underwrote the restoration of the bell tower.
Magically, when the bell began to ring it was soon answered by a chorus of ringing church bells throughout Middlebury.
At the event, Sen. Jim Jeffords was honored for his support of a $147,000 Federal Grant for the restoration. Gratitude was expressed to Maynard McLaughlin, President of the Bread Loaf Corp., donor of funds to build replicas of the two original chimneys, and to Gardner Stone, owner of G. Stone Motors, for his gift of the monumental front doors.
For its third summer, THT sprang into action, this time offering a virtual performance blitz. Sell-out audiences were delighted by Little Shop of Horrors, Laundry & Bourbon, Tosca, Middlebury Does Motown, Tales & Things : a Monstrous Childrenâ€™s Musical, The Last Five Years, a series of rock bands, an evening of a cappella singing groups, and Pathos Dance Theater. In October, the THT season came to a triumphant end when the Great Middlebury Antiques Auction, chaired by Barbara Blodgett, raised $18,000.
THT had been operating on a series of temporary occupancy waivers, but the interior was little more than a shell and not up to code. THT and state authorities agreed that the time had come to close the building until the interior had been completely restored, a process that included fire alarms, a sprinkler system, ADA accessibility, and completely new heating, air conditioning, electrical and plumbing systems.
When architect Steve Schenker left Bread Loaf Corporation to create his own firm, the interior restoration was left in the hands of talented young architect Ashar Nelson.
As of April, 2007, THT had raised an amazing total of $3,845,168, within reach of the $5 million fundraising goal. That goal came a giant step closer to reality when Middlebury College formed a partnership with THT providing the theater with $1 million over the next 20 years. The partnership creates a new venue for student and faculty performances, and reserves three weeks each summer for performances by the college Language Schools. â€śWith all of these exciting college productions coming to THT, weâ€™re going to have a season line-up that will be the envy of theaters in much larger towns,â€ť says Anderson. â€śEverybody wins.â€ť
Bruce Baker and Peggy Keith were the hard-working co-chairs of the final phase of the capital campaign. Working with a small team of volunteers, they raised the last dollar in the fall of 2007. The restoration of the interior started almost immediately.
After years of grueling fundraising efforts and unanticipated construction challenges, the building is once again among the most beautiful structures in Middlebury. It reopened with great fanfare on July 26, 2008 â€“ a state-of-the-art building constructed within the historic shell.
The interior has became a spacious hall, named for director Erie Volkert, who helped create the Middlebury Community Players and taught for many years at Middlebury College. With a ceiling rising to the very peak of the roof, the Volkert Main Stage offers a beautiful and capacious space for theater, music, dances, meetings and receptions. Light pours into the room through the newly restored stained-glass windows, and the refinished hardwood floor gleams. The lower level has been reconfigured to accommodate the Carolyn and Will Jackson Gallery, the Bruce and Sue Byers Studio, the Middlebury Community Players Dressing Room, and THT offices.
How often does it happen that a dream, a vision, has been fully realized down to the last detail? How can a community thank the tireless, dedicated efforts of more than a thousand volunteers and donors who are responsible? Clearly, the answer is for everyone to use the building and support THT presentations, guaranteeing that the townâ€™s hall will be here to serve the community for another 125 years.
CLICK HERE for technical information on all of THTâ€™s spaces.
Click below to see floor plans for all of THTâ€™s spaces.