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A year’s worth of Arts + Leisure encapsulated here

Arts+Leisure celebrated it’s first full year in 2017. Twelve months, 52 issues, over 830 pages, all dedicated to arts and events going on in Addison County.
Having launched the new arts section as a supplement to the regular Thursday Addison Independent in May 2016, we only had half a year to review last year. This year reviewing all that went on left me breathless.
In 2017, we’ve had the opportunity to highlight the work of more than 30 local artists and craftspeople; meet 25 chefs, bakers, farmers and food producers; suggest more than 230 don’t-miss events happening right here in Addison County; learn 14 valuable gardening lessons from our own Master Gardener Judith Irven; and recommend 52 books and 51 movies.
We’ve also had the privilege this year of celebrating major milestones like the United Way of Addison County’s 50th year, Diana Fanning and Dieuwke Davydov’s 40 years as a duo, Emory Fanning’s 50 years at Middlebury college, Three Squares Cafe’s 10th birthday, the Vermont Choral Union’s 50th year, Night Fire’s 35th anniversary, and more! Some of our favorite feature stories of 2017 are featured on pages 8-11.
Looking ahead to the New Year, we’re excited to continue publishing the Addison Independent’s Arts+Leisure section, and rely on your support and participation to help make it an engaging, creative and fun companion every Thursday.
 Elsie Lynn Parini, editor Arts+Leisure
Have a tip for Arts+Leisure? Email Elsie, [email protected].
 
JANUARY
Ethiopian Night comes to Tandem
Alganesh Michael brought her second authentic Ethiopian and Eritrean dinner to Tandem in January. Now the South Burlington chef is a regular at the Bristol eatery, offering community style meals and take out.
If you eat in, food is served on one platter for two, three or four people. Michael cooks five dishes will all be served on one injera ? a handmade, fermented sour dough pancake — with more rolled up on the side.
“When you sit together and eat, that’s when conversation comes…I’ve met more people doing this in the past three years,” Michael said, than in anything else she’s done since coming to the United States close to 30 years ago.
When wooden pens turn into a career
Jim Cunningham shared his story of how handcrafted pens became his full-time business in January. At first Cunningham ran a rustic handmade furniture company, but one fateful day 16 years ago National Wildlife Foundation asked him to make pens.
When Cunningham realized there was a market for his pens — and how much easier the production was on his hands — he closed his furniture business and has dedicated his efforts to hand-crafted pens ever since. At the height of his pen-business, Cunningham estimated he was making 1,000 pens or more in a year. These days, he guesses it’s somewhere closer to 600-800 pens in a year.
“I’m a maker of need-full things,” Cunningham said. “I’ve always made and done things that people use every day.”
 
FEBRUARY
Mark Perrin of Green Peppers in Middlebury
Green Peppers has been a staple in Middlebury since 1993. Owner Mark Perrin shared the story of how he came to open Green Peppers with his wife Donna and what it means to run a restaurant in a small community in February.
“My wife and I have always viewed the restaurant business as a form of income, but also a way to do good in our community,” said Perrin. “We are supported so much by local people ? it’s really the locals that drive this business ? so we try to give back as much as we can.”
One way Perrin gives back to locals is through employment.
Green Peppers hires a lot of high school kids. “One of the first things I tell them is that this job is their fifth responsibility in life,” he explained. “Your first responsibility is to yourself, what makes you tick? Then to your family, school, extracurriculars and finally your job here.”
Sure that means he’s got a fair amount of employee turnover, but Perrin doesn’t view that as a bad thing. “These kids are taking different pathways to success, and while they’re here we teach them hard work, stress management, team play and responsibility… we really are teachers.”
Trusted for 40 years: Duo returns to stage
Cellist Dieuwke Davydov and pianist Diana Fanning celebrated their 40th year performing together with a concert on Feb. 26 at Mead Chapel. The duo has had a special connection since the very first time they played together back in September 1976.
“As we played through pieces by Brahms, Beethoven and Schubert, it became increasingly clear that Dieuwke and I had an unusual musical bond,” said Fanning. “We were communicating with each other through the music as if we had already played together for years.”
“To play for 40 years in a duo with the same person is extremely rare and special,” said Davydov. “Our musical relationship has deepened into a complete trust of each other’s interpretation; a knowledge of the other’s preference of expression; and an ability to pick up on the minutest change in articulation and musical detail. We never play a passage in the same way twice, and are so in tune with each other that we can react immediately to the slightest changes.”
The two Addison County residents took their 40th anniversary celebration on tour around Vermont and over to the Netherlands and France for their eighth European tour.
 
MARCH
Middlebury winter film series screens ‘Off the Rails’
The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival presented “Off the Rails” for the fifth film in this year’s Winter Screening Series in March. Since January, MNFF showed one film a month that focused on prominent work by first and second time filmmakers; the series concludes with the sixth and final film in May.
“Off The Rails,” directed by Adam Irving, is “a riveting documentary that tells the incredible true story of Darius McCollum, a man with Asperger’s syndrome whose overwhelming love and comprehensive knowledge of transit has landed him in jail 32 times for the criminal impersonation of NYC subway drivers, conductors, bus drivers, token booth clerks and track repairmen,” read the Winter Screening Series promo for this film.
The screening in Middlebury was introduced by Jude Domski, Bristol-area native and close friend of McCollum.
“Darius is a really lovely person,” Domski said. “The story feels like it transcends the specifics; it’s about a man passionate about something that is forbidden. That has such an epic scale to it.”
Vergennes Carnevale celebrates 3rd year
The Little City celebrated it’s third annual Carnevale Vergennes at the Opera House in early March. The evening was packed with performances, creative attire, music, and food and drink provided by Vergennes restaurants Park Squeeze, Bar Antidote, Black Sheep Bistro and 3 Squares Cafe.  Charlotte resident and professional clown, Woody Keppel, was in charge of all entertainment.
To make it even more authentic, Vergennes City Mayor Bill Benton proclaimed Venice, Italy a sister city to Vergennes ?  a gesture that Venice dignitaries are expected to reciprocate.
The event is held as a fundraiser for three area non-profits: Vergennes Opera House, the Vergennes Partnership (the economic development organization for the Little City) and the Boys & Girls Club of Greater Vergennes.
 
APRIL
Jim Geier rocks into perfection
Back in 1975, Jim Geier made his first Vermont Folk Rocker.
“I was playing around and making things, and sometimes it turns into something,” he said in an interview in April. “All art is like that.”
Geier spent his first 15 years in Burlington before moving his operation to Starksboro, where he continues to make the iconic rocking chairs.
The woodwork happens in a large shop with dust-covered anti-nuke memorabilia and other faded poster art. Geier’s passion for peace and creativity is on display throughout the shop with his own artwork and, of course, the rockers.
“Over the years, the angle of the seat and the armrests have changed,” Geier said. “But now, it’s perfect… or at least at a point where I like it just the way it is.”
Vermont Choral Union wings into 50 years
This April, the Vermont Choral Union celebrated fifty years with three anniversary concerts: at the Mahaney Center for the Arts at Middlebury College, the McCarthy Recital Hall at St. Michael’s College and at the Unitarian Church of Montpelier.
Originally founded by University of Vermont professor James G. Chapman, the ensemble of 36 singers is still going strong with Middlebury’s Jeff Rehbach at the helm.
The anniversary performances featured works drawn from five decades of Vermont Choral Union repertoire. A special choral suite was commissioned and composed for the ensemble’s 50th anniversary by award-winning composer and 2001 Middlebury College graduate Christina Whitten Thomas.
“The Union’s been winging its way into the future,” Rehbach said, explaining the program title “Wings of Song.” “There’s a sense of soaring and taking flight in this year’s program.”
 
MAY
The Inner Gardener shares her secrets
Joan Lynch shared her secrets of gardening in May. Thirteen years ago, she launched The Inner Garden — a horticultural services company that specializes in sustainable landscapes and the use of tropical plants for green interior plantscapes ? to help those of us (with or without green thumbs) achieve an envy-worthy garden.
“In the 25 years I’ve been doing this, what I’ve learned is to read the customer’s needs and interests,” said Lynch. “People say, ‘oh, I want gardens!’ Then I bring reality in.”
To achieve the right balance, she said, it’s about scaling ideas and suggesting plants or designs that will make a dream-garden feasible.
For those looking to do-it-yourself, Lynch suggests a few simple tips:
Keep up on the weeds.
Pay attention to nearby invasive species.
Think about the big picture. How do you want to spend your summer and what do you want to get from your garden?
Don’t be afraid to remove plants that don’t thrill you. (Give them to a friend if you feel bad.)
Middlebury Studio School settles in on Route 7
This May, Kathy Clarke, Mary McKay Lower and Barbara Nelson showed off the Middlebury Studio School’s new location on Route 7. Two years ago the trio helped move this business from its former location on Mill Street where they operated as Frog Hollow (Vermont State Craft Center) for nearly 40 years. Now, people flow through the school as if it were their own living room — at ease with the clay-dust and happy to share space, stories and snacks.
MSS offers many types of art classes for all ages, including pottery, jewelry making, painting, drawing, mixed media and pastels, to name a few. They also offer afterschool programs during the school year and art camps for kids in the summer, which are held at the Patricia Hannaford Career Center in Middlebury. And they hold regular open studio hours.
“We want to be an arts center,” Nelson said. “Yeah, a hub,” Clarke agreed. “We want Middlebury to be more synonymous with the arts,” Lower added.
 
JUNE
Foodaroo moves to Marble Works
This June, Foodaroo moved its festivities to the Marble Works. For the past two years, the event closed down Merchants Row for an evening of Vermont food, music, activities and fun. But the downtown construction this summer presented a number of challenges, so Lisa and Andy Mitchell (who put on the event with their company Middlebury UndergrounD, or MUD) decided to relocate.
Attendees tasted their way through the festival while enjoying leading local bands, street performers, kids activities, a fortuneteller, fire circus, King Arthur Flour baking contest and more.
“It was an intentional choice to focus on street performers this year,” said Lisa. “Last year we focused on music and this is a different angle. We hope it will make the event even more family-friendly.”
Treasures of ‘Il Trittico’ revealed in a beautiful production
The Opera Company of Middlebury presented Puccini’s “Il Trittico” this June. The performance of this seldom-seen piece was presented as three separate and distinct operas at the Town Hall Theater.
The opener is “Il Tabarro” set on a dingy barge on the Seine. It tells the story of a failing marriage and an ill-fated affair. Midway is the comic opera “Gianni Schicchi.” The finale is the sublime “Suor Angelica.” Sister Angelica was banished to the convent seven years prior to giving birth to her illegitimate son, and learns that the child has died.
“The shimmering moment when she is reunited with her son in death’s embrace sent an unforgettable surge of shared emotion throughout the audience,” read Nancy Maxwell’s review. “Beyond thrilling, it was transcendent.”
 
JULY
Middlebury constructs a downtown celebration
This July, construction ripped up downtown Middlebury, which meant less traffic for shops on Main Street and Merchants Row. To ease the tension of the construction, the Better Middlebury Partnership invited the public to come see what was going on and support businesses in the construction zone.
“Since the road was be closed for construction, we decided it was a good time to throw a party on the street, invite the community and support our local merchants,” said BMP Marketing Director Karen Duguay.
It was Middlebury’s first Block Party, and it featured Middlebury Money giveaways, live music, kids activities, food, face painting and wrap up with “Shrek” — showing in the new college park.
Festival On-The-Green
The 39th annual Festival On-The-Green kicked off the first Sunday of July, with the help of many volunteers.
This annual festival brought the sounds of Radio Free Honduras, Robert and Gigi, The Sea the Sea, Mollie O’Brien and Rich Moore, Jon Gailmor, Emily Braden Trio, Upstate Rubdown, Pete’s Posse, The Molly Tuttle Band, Stephen Gratto, Jason Anick Gypsy Jazz Trio, Seamus Eagan Project, Starline Rhythm Boys, Dave Keller’s 9-Piece Soul Revue and Vermont Jazz Ensemble Street Dance; along with performances by Magician Tom Verner and No Strings Marionette Company.
The week-long celebration of summer was another smashing success with the live music and entertainment, local food, drinks and vendors, and dancing!
AUGUST
MNFF celebrates third year
The Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival has served for the past two years as a venue for first and second time filmmakers from all over the world, and this August was no exception.
Sixteen of the more than 90 feature and short films screened were submitted by international filmmakers, who come from places like France, India, Lebanon and the United Kingdom. The Addison Independent highlighted these international filmmakers and their films to help share the diversity MNFF brings to our community.
Meet the writers at Bread Loaf
Ninety-one years ago, Robert Frost had the impulse to establish the “Conferences on Writing,” as they were originally known. Several others supported the idea to use Middlebury College’s Bread Loaf campus as a writers’ conference when it was vacant at the end of each August, and the idea took hold.
This year, Bread Loaf invited writers from all over again for a variety of conferences. Ten participants shared their stories of who they are, where they came from and what they’re working on with The Addison Independent this August. It’s nice to get to know your neighbors!
SEPTEMBER
Recess is back, for adults
Andrew Peterson, of Peterson Quality Malt in Monkton, was looking for a way to say thank you to his customers this summer, so he decided to throw an outdoor party of food, drink and games at the fairgrounds in New Haven. It was recess — for adults.
The first 21-and-over Recess for Adults took place in early September. There were all sorts of free games like kickball, three-legged races, sack races, a water balloon toss and board games if you get tired. There were also be some higher stakes, pay-to-play games like the pro and amateur tournaments of disc golf, the Vermont State Championship of foursquare, the Vermont State Championship of corn hole and the legendary Beer Mile.
The event also served as a fundraiser for the American Cancer Society, and ACS members helped Peterson organize and run the event.
Dancers go vertical for BANDALOOP
BANDALOOP returned to Middlebury to kick off the 25th anniversary season of the Mahaney Center for the Arts this September. BANDALOOP seamlessly weaves dynamic physicality, intricate choreography, and the art of climbing to turn the dance floor on its side. In other words, they dance while hanging off the sides of buildings.
The group first came to Middlebury in 2004 to perform at the opening of the Davis Family Library and then-President Ron Liebowitz’ inauguration. This year’s anniversary performance ushered in a season of music, plays, films and exhibits.
“We have an impressive season of world-class concerts, plays, exhibitions, films, and more,” said Liza Sacheli, director of Mahaney Center for the Arts. “We have over 300 public arts events every year, and fully half of them are free. We hope that BANDALOOP will be just the thing to invite our community to reacquaint themselves with the arts at Middlebury.”
 
OCTOBER
Comedy comes to Middlebury Marquis
Tina Friml and Katie Gillespie initiated a monthly comedy show to the Middlebury Marquis, where audiences will see standup, conversations, games, storytelling, improv and inevitable small talk. The first show came in the middle of October highlighting comedians Sky Sandoval, Tim Bridge and Kendall Farrell.
The two Addison County women, launched this comedy series as a way to bring a new type of entertainment to the Middlebury scene.
“I was drawn into the unanswerable question about what’s funny and how you make someone laugh,” Friml said. “I’d say it’s all about context and timing, but really it’s a riddle you can’t solve — it just happens.”
“Everyone is funny,” Gillespie reminded, “you just have to find your humor.”
Madaila on the Mountain
With the help of Middlebury UndergrounD (MUD), the United Way of Addison County threw a 50th birthday bash in early October. The Middlebury College Snow Bowl hosted the event with food trucks, all sorts of beverages, kids’ activities including a bounce house, youth bands from the area and the psych-pop juggernaut Madaila.
“Over the years a lot has changed, but some hasn’t,” said Nancy Luke, Marketing and Development Director for UWAC. “There’s still need in Addison County. It hasn’t been easy for people who are what we call the ‘working poor’ — they are people who are working, but just can’t make ends meet. That’s a real target group for us. We want to create stability in their lives.”
Madaila, while a pop-staple up in Burlington, hasn’t played Middlebury since two summers ago at Festival on-the-Green. Three of the five band members are Middlebury Union High School Grads, and they were excited to come back to play their hometown.
 
NOVEMBER
Broadway Direct taps a dozen years
Bill Carmichael, a Vergennes resident and owner of the Emerson Guest House on Main Street, brought Broadway Direct to the Vergennes Opera House for the 12th year this November. As a Broadway veteran himself, Carmichael called on his Broadway friends and several local students to bring a professional song and dance show to the Little City.
“Hands down Broadway Direct is our most anticipated show of our season,” said Gerianne Smart, president of the Friends of the Vergennes Opera House. “Every year, Bill and his friends transport us to the lively theaters of Broadway with their big voices and exceptional theatrical talents.”
The show this year focused on the music and lyrics of Cole Porter and Frank Loesser. These two composers are behind the music of “Anything Goes,” “Kiss Me Kate,” “Guys and Dolls,” “Begin the Beguine” and many others.
Queen comes to Town Hall Theater
The famous 1970s British rock band Queen was reincarnated in November at Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. Rockers Clint Bierman, Peter Day, Tyler Mast and Steve Hadeka created that infamous Queen sound with Josh Panda up front as Freddie Mercury.
The tribute show was a challenge for the musicians.
“Performing Queen is another level of technical ability and weirdness,” Bierman said. “It’s no joke… The lyrics of Queen are so complicated especially in Bohemian Rhapsody. They were so theatrical and odd, but at the same time accessible. Their music is ageless.”
“We love having Clint, Josh and the gang here,” said Haley Rice, Operations Manager/ Marketing for Middlebury’s Town Hall Theater. “We’re up for anything they want to do because whatever they do is amazing!”
 
DECEMBER
Doug Anderson: The man behind the curtain
Doug Anderson announced this December during a retrospective on his life at The Residence at Otter Creek in Middlebury that he would be stepping down as executive director and looking to a new role as artistic director.
The talk ranged from his birth in Dayton, Ohio to his high school days of directing a traveling children’s musical theater group in the summers. He continued through his college years at Kenyon College and his first acting job, to his first production in New York City. He elaborated on the fateful moments that landed him teaching jobs at Middlebury College, the University of Nebraska and Amherst, and his experiences writing for the Children’s TV Workshop and Guiding Light. Finally he arrived in Middlebury where he discovered the potential of the old Knights of Columbus building and his vision for the Town Hall Theater emerged.
Throughout his life Anderson marked his success with a several mottos: “Make work; always be professional; know your limitations; and take the long view.”
Night Fires returns to Town Hall Theater for 35th Year
This December, Night Fires, the annual winter solstice play celebrated its 35th year, will be a big shout of hope inside a passionate prayer for this beautiful, aching country of ours. With a completely new script and story each year, the theme has always remained the same: that of setting out, at the darkest time of year, on a journey into and through a fruitful darkness in order to arrive at the “light.”
Marianne Lust, the creator of Night Fires, has been the show’s producer, writer and director for all but a few of the 35 years.
“I love doing Night Fires more than any other theatre I do,” said the 70-year-old Lincoln resident. “I love ALL of it!”
With an eloquent plaiting of song, dance, poetry and prose, the production features music from folk traditions of many lands as well as contemporary folk and classical pieces, recent prose pieces from the times we all are currently swimming in, and dance that — along with the music — brings us always back to moments of utter timelessness in what has been called a “mystery play for our own time.”

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