State of the Arts
Astute readers of the new Vermont Mozart Festival brochure may note a few gaps -- not in the programming, but in the corporate-sponsorship department. Four of the 19 concerts in the 31st season, which runs from July 18 to August 8, lack the imprimatur of a big business such as Hydro Quebec or Vermont Tent Company. Corporate cash is an essential component in the festival's $750,000 budget.
However, another crucial gap has just been filled: VMF has hired a new executive director, Pamela Siers. The position had been vacant since the end of December, following the three-month tenure of previous exec director Carol Canfield.
The sponsorship shortfall was due in part to that vacancy, says Siers, who began work April 13. "Since the brochure went to the printer, a lot of sponsorship areas have been filled," she adds. "I would say we have probably reached our goal."
Culture vultures may recall Siers' name from her last high-profile gig. She was executive director of the Vermont State Craft Center from 1986 to '93, during which time she opened the Frog Hollow galleries in Burlington and Manchester. Since then, she's headed up the Angels Gate Cultural Center in Los Angeles and worked as a partner in an arts management firm in Richmond, Virginia, doing consultancies with visual artists.
What brings her back to the Green Mountains and Mozart? "The challenge," Siers replies.
In her new position, she will report to VMF's board of directors. And who does co-founder and artistic director Melvin Kaplan report to? She ponders the question and diplomatically replies, "Who does Mr. K. work for? He works for Mr. K." Kaplan has the final say in most operational matters, she adds, explaining, "It's a somewhat unusual situation because he's not just the artistic director, he is the face of this organization."
Siers isn't worried about butting heads, though. "I have the highest regard for him and his talent and for what he created here," she says. "Is he difficult? I'm sure he can be. Am I difficult? You bet I am."
Siers' plans for the future at VMF include "implementing some new organizational structure" as well as building membership and national recognition. She says that the festival already has a head start in the latter: "Anywhere you go, you can say Vermont Mozart Festival and someone will relate to at least one of those words."
michael jordan returns...
That is, Michael Jordan Evans. The Burlington actor-director worked with the late Steven Sharp's Growling Pub Theater Festival at Magic Hat several years ago but has been out of circulation for a while. Now he's back in action with big ambitions and a brand new company -- the Vermont Theatre Ensemble. "Our goal isn't merely to take Theatre in Burlington to the next level," he proclaims in a press release. "Our goal is to take Theatre in Burlington to the highest level." Asked what that level might entail, he's quick to add that he doesn't mean to cast aspersions on any of the productions already happening here. He just thinks there's room for growth.
"The reason I think there isn't more professional theater in town," he elaborates, "is that we as artists have failed to provide audiences with theater they can support."
He hopes to fill that need with a two-play season at Champlain College's Alumni Auditorium, beginning with David Mamet's American Buffalo May 13-27 and continuing with Don Nigro's Seascape with Sharks and Dancer in July. Buffalo has what amounts to an all-star cast, Burlington-style -- John D. Alexander, Aaron Masi and Dennis McSorley, all of whom have shown a flair for dark Mamet-esque comedy.
Evans' casting also yielded an unexpected bonus. He was still searching for a venue when one of his actors -- Alexandra Sevakian, who's in Seascape -- suggested he contact her mother, Joanne Farrell, the head of Champlain Theater at the college. It wasn't until they talked that he discovered he'd also cast another of Farrell's relatives: John Alexander is her son-in-law. "She was very interested in finding ways of [Champlain Theater] being more available to the community," says Evans, and the family ties sealed the deal.
Evans thinks there's a theater renaissance afoot in Burlington.
"We have actors who have been doing theater for 25, 30 years," says the director, who supports his theater habit by working the night shift at a mental health facility. "Some of us have taken a break and we're coming back. It's a collective thing -- this is the next step."
Back in January, I reported that a gentleman had stood up during the orientation session for Lyric Theatre Company's The King and I and asked whether bald people had an edge in getting cast. Turns out the hirsute questioner, Mark Cranmer, didn't have to worry: The production team happily shaved his pate and cast him as the King. And a good choice it was, too. Last Saturday night he and Kelly Kendall, who played Anna, won a deserved standing O for their commanding performances. OK, maybe they were both a little more, um, ample than one expects the King and Anna to be, but they made a charming pair nonetheless. This was my first experience of a Lyric production, and it was a pleasure: The lavishly detailed sets and costumes, well-trained ensemble and lovely voices did justice to Rodgers & Hammerstein and to Lyric's 30th anniversary.