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A Chat with Carol Dunne - Artistic Director of Northern Stage Theater in White River Junction

Jun 20, 2016 01:26PM ● By Ryan Frisch

Carol Dunne is not only an actress and an award-winning director, but she also builds enthusiasm and collaboration among students and patrons wherever she works. Forging a partnership with the theater and Dartmouth College has brought new energy both onstage and behind the scenes in her third season as Northern Stage Theater's artistic director.

Upon arriving in 2013, you had hoped to forge a collaboration between Northern Stage and Dartmouth College. How’s that going?

Northern Stage and Dartmouth are now collaborating closely to offer Dartmouth students a clear path into the professional theater world. We introduced a postgraduate internship and have our first intern, Hannah Colman, halfway through her residency. We premiered Orwell in America,  a new play by Dartmouth Professor Joe Sutton, directed by Professor Peter Hackett and starring Dartmouth Professor Jamie Horton, and will be bringing the entire production to off Broadway next fall. This is the focus of an E-term we are launching for Dartmouth students who will live with the company, work onstage and off, and spend four weeks in New York on off-Broadway production.

At times, just a handful of patrons would come to the old Briggs Opera House. What is the game plan to fill the 240 seats at the new Barrette Center for the Arts?

Our mission is to “Change lives, one story at a time.” We have learned that when our theater produces excellent work that can’t be missed, it becomes an integral part of the fabric of our society. Mary Poppins  sold out for seven weeks, with waiting lists most nights above 50. Our hope is that those who loved Poppins  will trust us to introduce them to the new, the original, and the reimagined.

You brought the New London Barn Playhouse from its deficit into the black. How healthy is Northern Stage’s patron support base?

Our support base is growing rapidly, and the campaign is in its last three months. We are thrilled with our success so far, but even though we’re in our new home, we are not home free. We need dedicated supporters to help raise the final 4 percent of our nine-million-dollar campaign. (If anyone would like to chat with me about helping, I’m totally free.)

When you escape the footlights, how do you and your family enjoy life in the Upper Valley?

I love skiing with my kids, even though I didn’t really learn how to ski until I was 40. They just ski past me and let me wind my way down a mountain. Living here has really changed me. Skiing and biking are amazing antidotes to the theater. And I love reading. I love getting away from the Internet and reading a good book by the fire. Heaven!

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