Coming soon to THT: Steel marquee

MIDDLEBURY — The Town Hall Theater is in line for a coming attraction that will let people know about its coming attractions.
A new, 10-feet-tall-by-3.5-feet-wide marquee, made of hand-forged steel will soon stand in front of the THT at the intersection of Merchants Row and South Pleasant streets. The new marquee — to be installed before the end of the year — will provide a very sturdy and classy message board on which the theater will be able to communicate its many events to the Addison County community.
“I think it is going to be a beautiful addition to the downtown,” THT Executive Director Douglas Anderson said of the new marquee, which has been in the works for more than a year.
While it will be pleasing to the eye, the marquee’s main function will be to maximize ticket sales for THT shows. Those shows are currently publicized through the THT’s website, word-of-mouth and newspaper ads — methods that have been yielding results, but cannot capture the immediate attention of walkers or drivers in downtown Middlebury.
“We hear from people who say, ‘If I knew something was going on, I might have stopped in,’” Anderson said.
That’s where a marquee comes in. Most theaters, like the Flynn in Burlington, have their marquees incorporated as part of the building. Research indicated the THT had a prominent marquee at one time, but one that would not fit into the current aesthetic of a structure that has been so painstakingly restored.
“If we were going to do it, we wanted to do it right,” Anderson said.
So, Anderson consulted with Bread Loaf Corp.’s Ashar Nelson, local historian Glenn Andres, Lou Nop of Nop’s Metal Works and longtime THT supporter Carol Calhoun to determine the best marquee plan.
They decided on a stand-alone structure that would be located outside of the theater, “designed to work at 35 miles per hour,” Anderson said in describing the ability of passing motorists to absorb the event titles assembled with three-inch letters.
The marquee organizers came up with a design calling for a steel structure, featuring a rectangular frame on a modified hourglass-like pedestal. The design won approval from the town and state historic preservation officials.
Nop, who began forging the piece in mid-September, said the marquee will be powder coated — a process that results in a finish that is harder than conventional paint — in a color to be determined. Plans call for the interior of the frame to be dark to better offset white letters.
Electrical conduit is already in place to power LED lighting for the structure.
“It’s a great project,” Nop said. “We are glad to be a part of it. It is right in our hometown and should be here as long as the new bridge.”
Calhoun is underwriting the costs of the marquee, which Anderson called a “substantial gift.”
She is pleased to do it.
“It will help the community and will help fills seats in the theater,” Calhoun, a Weybridge resident, said.
“This was always a need, and it was something I dreamed I might be able to provide.”
Calhoun, a past THT board member who continues to help the organization, explained the marquee gift aptly relates to three of her interests: Writing, graphic arts and architecture.
She has been pleased with Nop’s progress in crafting the marquee. It is a structure that is dignified, understated and fits in with the surroundings, she said.
Because it weighs in excess of 2,000 pounds, the marquee will have to be hoisted into place with a crane. It’s an event that will be feted by THT boosters, including Calhoun.
The making of the marquee is being captured on film by Dakota Hallock of Middlebury Union High School and Thomas Ahearn of Mount Abraham Union High School. Both are enrolled in the video technical arts program at the Patricia A. Hannaford Career Center.
“It is history,” Calhoun said of the permanence of the marquee. “To be able to give something that is tangible is a privilege and a pleasure.”
Reporter John Flowers is at [email protected].

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