Rockingham Selectboard directs MSA to take down “Cabaret” set

BELLOWS FALLS, Vt. – On Tuesday, July 7, the Rockingham Selectboard discussed tax bills and the Main Street Arts Cabaret set and equipment at the Bellows Falls Opera House.

Bellows Falls Opera House. Photo provided

Finance Director Shannon Burbela explained the governor approved municipality budget changes, and she did not recommend waiting to send tax bills. Burbela suggested setting the tax rate and sending the first bill, and then the second bill would be revised if the budget was changed. Susan Hammond wanted to remind residents that although positions were eliminated, the money was already in the budget. This would not save taxpayer money and would move to the General Fund. The board set the tax rate at $1.1058.

The Selectboard also addressed whether Main Street Arts’ set for their show “Cabaret” should be moved from the Opera House. MSA’s production of “Cabaret” was postponed back in early March – two days before their opening night – due to the COVID-19 orders to limit social gatherings. The set and equipment has remained in the Opera House.

Peter Golec thought that MSA should move their set and said the Opera House “is not a storage facility.” Similar opinions were echoed by Stefan Golec and Ben Masure.

Hammond disagreed. “This is a very unusual situation…[and] a lot of time and money went into constructing that set.”

Chair Gaetano Putignano said, “It isn’t about MSA…it’s about following the rules.”

Gavy Kessler, MSA co-chair, said, “The set is a large scale work of art… It will literally have to be sawed apart [to be removed] and cost a large amount of money to rebuild.” He continued, “If you say that you support the arts, please right now support the arts by letting us keep our set there.”

Director David Stern said, “We have gotten very positive support from not only what we’ve earned for the Opera House but also local businesses.”

Bonnie North added, “I think you are shooting yourselves in the foot,” and “There seems to be no logic.”

Putignano explained, “If the show never happens, what will we do in six months? Have folks seemingly getting mad at board members for asking someone to remove their set of a show that we don’t know if it’s ever going to happen.”

Hammond suggested revisiting the issue in January. “I don’t see the problem in leaving it…I see a big problem in taking it away.”

When asked about current acts, Opera House manager Rick Angers said, “We could, according to governor’s guidelines, put on a performance.”

Peter Golec suggested building sets that could be bolted together and dismantled easier.

Ben Masure moved that MSA remove the set within two weeks. Stefan Golec seconded and the motion passed 4-1 with Hammond against.

The Selectboard’s next meeting is Aug. 4. Putignano explained residents are encouraged to attend because VTrans will be discussing construction on Bridge 38 – the steel bridge on Missing Link Road.

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