Arts Beat: Shows deconstruct Shakespeare’s female characters

Master actor/dramaturg Tina Packer will deconstruct and conjure William Shakespeare’s most famous female characters in two funny and fierce shows, parts 1 and 2 of her work “Women of Will,” for the Middlebury College Performing Arts Series. At 8 p.m. on Saturday, Packer and costar Nigel Gore will perform “Force and Heat: The Early Plays.” Then, at 7 p.m. on Sunday, they will present “Chaos and Redemption: The Later Plays.” Both performances will be at Middlebury College’s Wright Memorial Theatre. Packer will sign copies of her 2015 book “Women of Will” after each performance.
“Women of Will” is the masterful summation of Packer’s 40-plus years spent investigating all things Shakespeare. Through a combination of riveting scenes and trenchant analysis, Packer explores themes of love, loss, freedom, control, violence and power through the heroines of Shakespeare’s text.
This engagement is part of a cooperative venture with Town Hall Theater (THT). In addition to the performances at the college, Packer will also host two events at THT: a conversation and book signing on Saturday at 1 p.m. (tickets: $10), and an open workshop for actors from “Straight Up Shakespeare” at 2:30 p.m. (observers welcome). More information at 388-1436 or
All of these events are part of a month-long celebration of the life and works of William Shakespeare, given in conjunction with the exhibition “First Folio! The Book that Gave us Shakespeare,” on view now through Feb. 28 at the Middlebury College Museum of Art (opening reception at 4:30 p.m. on Thursday).
Tickets for “Women of Will” are $20 for the general public. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 443-6433 or go to
Bria Skonberg will perform in Robison Hall (the concert hall) at Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts at 8 p.m. on Friday. She will lead her quintet in a dynamic program including an ode to Louis Armstrong, plus a mix of jazz standards and her own original works.
A specialist in classic American hot jazz, Skonberg expands the vocabulary and traditions of jazz legends Louis Armstrong and Sidney Bechet with worldly rhythms and modern jazz variance. Her U.S. debut album “So Is the Day” peaked at number seven on the National Jazz Charts, and featured original compositions and New Orleans-inspired stylistic fusions.
Skonberg has won the praise of critics from coast to coast. “Bria Skonberg looks like a Scandinavian angel (or Thor’s girlfriend), plays trumpet like a red hot devil, and sings like a dream. Her new album, ‘So Is the Day’ reveals that she’s also a very capable bandleader and composer,” says Will Friedwald in the Wall Street Journal.
Tickets are $20 for the general public. For more information, or to purchase tickets, call 443-6433 or go to
Joel Najman, host of the popular “My Place” program on VPR, got his start several decades ago at a small radio station in Middlebury. Najman returns to his roots at 8 p.m. on Saturday, when he hosts the VPR A-Go-Go Party at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater.
Najman will be spinning tunes from the ’60s, sharing stories, and getting everyone on their feet. Guests are invited to come shimmy, shake, rattle and roll the winter blues away. Sixties-era costumes are encouraged but not required. Other highlights include go-go dancers courtesy of the students of Fusion 802, club lighting by David Wolfe, and refreshments provided by Town Hall Theater.
People can expect their favorite ’60s tunes and Najman’s encyclopedic knowledge of the ’60s artists and their records. His show “My Place” weaves musicology, anthropology, sociology, and even psychology among the music of the ’50s and ’60s, creating a snapshot of life at that time.
Tickets are $15, available in person at the THT box office Monday-Saturday, noon to 5 p.m. or an hour before the show. Tickets are also available online at or by calling 382-9222.
The Cabin Fever Series presents The Matt Flinner Trio in concert on Friday, at 8 p.m. in the Walkover Gallery and Concert Room, 15 Main Street in Bristol.
Sonically founded in bluegrass, jazz and American acoustic music, the virtuosic collaboration between mandolinist Matt Flinner, guitarist Ross Martin and bassist Eric Thorin is a finely tuned compositional machine.
Over the last eight years, the trio has been writing new music the day of any given show and performing it as part of that night’s concert. The resulting push to constantly create new material and challenge themselves to find new sounds and textures has led the trio to a unique sound all their own, and has also stretched the boundaries of what a bluegrass trio can do. Now with over 400 tunes in their repertoire, the trio has just released “Traveling Roots” on Compass Records.
Tickets are $15 in advance and $20 at the door. For information and reservations call 453-3188, ext. 2.
There will be a performance, “Distant Mirrors-Music between the Wars, 1918-1939,” at 3 p.m. on Sunday in Robison Hall (the concert hall) in Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts.
The Heliand Consort presents music from the interwar period including novelty piano, French impressionism, the American songbook and Poulenc’s spectacular Sextet for Piano and Winds. This vibrantly creative program captures the dramatic contrasts of the period from the heights of the Roaring ’20s to the depths of the Depression.
This will be a dynamic evening of chamber music with Vermont’s own piano and woodwind ensemble. There will be a pre-concert talk by Rebecca Mitchell, assistant professor of History at Middlebury College, at 2:30 p.m. Her special interest is the intersection of music, poetics and identity in history.
It’s free and the public is welcome.
There will be three live musical events this week at Middlebury’s 51 Main. At 8 p.m. on Wednesday, the 51 Main Blues Jam continues. Dennis Willmott from Left Eye Jump will provide lead guitar, bass, and drums and these guys will back you up or take a break and let you play. All musicians and blues fans are welcome.
Then, at 8:30 p.m. on Friday, the Band SuGaR will take to the stage. An original eclectic group that modernizes the nostalgia of juke-joint blues and Americana lyrics that mixes their original works with a truly unique take on timeless treasures.
Finally, at 8:30 p.m. on Saturday, the Bob Gagnon Trio will perform. Led by Vermont-born jazz guitarist Bob Gagnon, this trio plays funky jazz inspired by Charlie Parker, Django Reinhardt and Ahmad Jamal.
All ages, no cover. For additional information visit or phone 388-8209.
The Solo Workshop, in collaboration with the UVM Lane Series, presents its fifth evening of new works, at 8 p.m. on Saturday in the dance theater of Middlebury College’s Mahaney Center for the Arts, continuing an exploration of what “solo” means to both artist and audience.
To explore the collaborative, creative process, The Solo Workshop brings together five University of Vermont artists and five Middlebury College artists to form pairs of choreographer-dancers and composer-musicians. Each twosome creates and performs a new piece, investigating the rich history and possibilities of the interaction of music and dance. The five new works are enhanced by lighting design and innovative use of the dance theater space.
Tickets are $12 for the general public. For more information, visit or call 443-3168.
The exciting 2015-2016 Hirschfield International Film Series continues on Saturday at Middlebury College with the 2012 U.S. film, “Much Ado About Nothing,” directed by Joss Whedon.
Shakespeare’s classic comedy is given a contemporary spin by director Joss Whedon. Shot in just 12 days, the story of sparring lovers Beatrice and Benedick offers a dark, sexy and occasionally absurd view of the intricate game that is love.
The film will be shown at 3 and again at 8 p.m. in Dana Auditorium. It’s free. Some of the films in this series may be inappropriate for children.
There will be two live performances this week at Two Brothers Tavern in Middlebury. Join Two Brothers every Wednesday at 9 p.m. for The Open Mic, an evening of music, comedy, or anything else, alternately hosted by Mark Sikora and Kai Stanley. Come cheer on your friends or let loose on the stage. It’s free to enter and there is no cover charge.
Then, on Saturday, the tavern presents Toast at 9 p.m. Toast are local hard rock heroes. They’ve been playing rock-and-roll all their lives, and it’s always a party, so bring your friends. There is a $3 cover charge. For more information, call Two Brothers at 388-0002.

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