A letter about Rockingham Selectboard’s Main Street Arts decision

Dear Editor,

We are angry and disheartened by the decision at the Rockingham Selectboard meeting on July 7 concerning the order that Main Street Arts remove the scenery and lighting and sound equipment for its COVID-19 postponed production of “Cabaret” at the Bellows Falls Opera House. This decision turns the “postponement” in effect into a cancellation of the show. This outcome makes us question whether or not most of the Selectboard and town manager have the best interest of the town at heart. We would like to thank Susan Hammond for the one vote in our favor and her comments in support. There was little to no interest in considering the letters of support from residents and local businesses who have benefited from MSA’s presence in the heart of the town. Only a very few voices, mostly virtual, were allowed to be heard in support of MSA.

We were both very much involved in the process that led to the 2006 restoration and renovation of the opera house and Town Hall, one of us chairing the committee that spearheaded the project and the other organizing and producing its fundraising events. Ironically, we are both now also involved with MSA’s “Cabaret,” one as a cast member and the other as a stage manager.

Partnerships with the community as a whole, the town administration, state and local arts organizations, state and other funders, volunteers and community supporters, and the Selectboard of that time made that project in the late 1990s and early 2000s a success. It was agreed by all parties then and ongoing that the opera house would be a multi-venue facility for movies, concerts, meetings, theatrical productions, and similar events. The town’s partnership with MSA over the past few years was a continuation of that mission. From 2017, four successful productions preceded “Cabaret.”

This production was postponed just two days before opening by the shutdown. It was still ready to roll. The majority members of the Selectboard referred to not wanting the Town Hall to be a “storage facility.” Our set is not just “stuff” to be stored or a random pile of construction materials. It is a carefully crafted work of art built to interact with the many other aspects of the production. Since this was not intended to be a touring production, the set was not built to be moved and reassembled again. We were gladly willing to move lights and speakers, and the set behind the movie screen on the stage no way impedes movie showings. Movie patrons, who don’t know differently, would not even know it’s there.

None of us know what the future of the Covid situation will bring, but now, sadly, it will not include a celebratory comeback of “MSA’s Cabaret” at the opera house. Where are the voices of those who once so believed in Bellows Falls being a vibrant, thriving community?

Sincerely,

Jeanie Levesque

Bill Lockwood

Bellows Falls, Vt.

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