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What’s ahead on the entertainment scene for 2021

  • Peterborough Folk Music will host outdoor concerts this season as the organization celebrates 25 years. Courtesy photo—

  • Peterborough Folk Music will host outdoor concerts this season as the organization celebrates 25 years. Courtesy photo

Monadnock Ledger-Transcript
Published: 2/4/2021 10:21:36 AM

The million dollar question is when will the region’s arts and entertainment scene will be back – fully back?

And now almost a month into 2021 and that question still remains difficult to answer. It’s hard not to wonder what the next 11 months might look like, as people search for any hope in returning to a normal way of living and seek an outlet through the creativity of the region.

The stage

Andy’s Summer Playhouse Producing Artistic Director Jared Mezzocchi said he has been in contact with other local artists and arts organizations to discuss what it means to reopen.

He said they’re still brainstorming as to what the summer may look like, but there will be something – it just remains to be seen what it will entail.

After the resounding success of The Digital Renaissance Project over the summer, Mezzocchi said they are looking at how a live performance and technology could come together for an event that people could actually attend in person.

“Basically do a local Zoom event,” Mezzocchi said. “We learned a ton and don’t want to loose it. There is something in the mix and it’s something that will be super exciting.”

But first they want to hear how prospective audience members might feel about seeing a show in person. Andy’s is planning to conduct a survey in the coming weeks to see “if we opened what would be people’s concerns,” Mezzocchi said.

He said it will of course depend on what restrictions and guidelines are in place.

Peterborough Players Managing Director Keith Stevens has maintained that the Players will return in 2021. Stevens said they expect to have a more clear picture of what that will look by the first week of March.

“I can certainly say we are committed to bringing live theatre back to Peterborough, safely this year, and to being part of the restart of the artistic life of the community,” Stevens said.

Nora Fiffer, co-founder and artistic director of Firelight Theatre Workshop, said it’s important to have something to look forward to. And for connoisseurs of Firelight’s work, there is plenty to plan for in 2021.

Fiffer said there is a lot more known now then there was back in March, and even given the restrictions on gathering in 2020, Firelight was still able to produce episodes six and seven of “We Were Friends” – just in a safe and distanced way.

In 2021, Fiffer said they will have two more episodes of the series surrounding the friendship between Ralph Waldo Emerson and Margaret Fuller. The first, set for late February, will be a filmed production thanks to a collaboration with Drum Production Studio, “which is the first of its kind for us,” Fiffer said. The second one is planned for next winter.

There are also two full length productions of published plays on the horizon in the summer and fall, as well as another installment of Tiny Stories toward the tail end of 2021 and potentially some workshops.

“As well as another surprise event we’re working on that explores new media,” Fiffer said. “We’re eager to see our audience again – when it’s safe to do so. But in the mean time we’ll keep creating, we’ll keep inventing because we know how important it is for people to have an experience outside themselves.”

The music

Mike Chadinha felt Peterborough Concert Series had finally found its groove. Then in March, it all went away.

“It was building and doing exactly what I hoped it would,” Chadinha said.

When the coronavirus pandemic began shutting down most aspects of life, Chadinha started postponing shows – first to April, then to later in the summer and eventually canceling them all together. When it will return remains to be seen.

“I think we’re going to have to wait and see for that. I don’t think a lot of people will feel comfortable with it and we’re not even close to being able to do anything indoors,” Chadinha said. “2022 I feel like we should be in a better place,”

But with a desire to bring live music back, Chadinha helped create Drive-In Live at the Cheshire Fairgrounds in Swanzey this summer, hosting shows every weekend, as well as occasionally during the week.

“Outdoors right now is the way for people to feel safe,” he said.

The hope right now is for a return of Drive-In Live this summer, but Chadinha said they are still going through the process with the town of Swanzey. He said it might look a little different this year if Drive-In Live is given the go-ahead. It would still be sold as a per car ticket and sectioned off, but is hoping there’s a way to eliminate having all the cars in the field.

“I don’t think (bands) want to play to a parking lot,” Chadinha said.

As for Uplift, that is also in a wait and see mode.

Laina Barakat, general manager for Monadnock Music, said the organization is proceeding optimistically, but with caution.

“We wanted to be prepared for any outcome for what the season may look like,” Barakat.

Barakat said last year was difficult for the organization because there simply wasn’t much of an opportunity for them to adapt on the fly to an online platform. But with time to plan, Barakat said they are ready for whatever comes in 2021.

“So let’s plan as if this summer is the same as last summer was,” she said.

The optimistic phase of the planning means Monadnock Music chose locations that can be used for both indoor and outdoor performances. Ideally the classical music that the organization is so well known for is suited best for indoor venues, but Barakat knows that just might not be possible.

“Right now, everything is going to be smaller, simpler and in the open air,” she said.

Since it would be impossible for rehearsals for larger collections of musicians, Barakat said concerts will range from soloists to quartets.

“We’re hoping it will be closer to the four musicians, but we have to prepare for the solos and duos,” she said.

The idea is to begin the season in mid-June, with at least a dozen concerts planned – the majority of which will be free.

Barakat said instead of planning for a normal year and creating a fall back, they are moving ahead with the contingency plan and if things change adjust from there. She said the hope is to announce dates and locations by March.

Monadnock Chorus is currently on a pause in terms of rehearsals for the months of January and February, but will resume in March. Rehearsals will once again be held at the Sharon Town Meeting House, where they began holding indoor, socially distanced and masked practice times after Halloween.

Moving forward the plan is to once again host outdoor concerts, artistic director Matthew Leese said.

“We decided as a board to not attempt a spring concert in the way that we would,” Leese said. That typical spring showcase would be at the Peterborough Town House, along with a winter concert. That one Leese feels comfortable might look like a traditional Monadnock Chorus showing.

“We are optimistic our holiday concert will be indoors and somewhat normal,” he said. Dates and location for the spring concert have yet to be announced.

Peterborough Folk Music will celebrate 25 years in 2021 and the anniversary season will look different than any of the previous.

Unable to hold concerts at the Peterborough Players, Bass Hall at the Monadnock Center and inside PFM founder Deb McWethy’s home, McWethy switched to outdoor shows in her yard last September and October. She sold out two shows each for Seth Glier and Tom Rush.

“They were incredibly popular,” McWethy said.

While the details are still being ironed out, McWethy said the plan is to host two concerts a month, beginning in either May or June and extending through the beginning of October.

No contracts have been signed, but McWethy said “we’re getting a very positive response,” from the likes of Glier, Chris Smither, Mark Erelli, Cheryl Wheeler and Kenny White.

She said there have been no discussions about returning to indoor shows, and the plan is to stick with outdoor concerts for this year. And of course there will be a celebration to mark the milestone year, with details yet to be announced.

The arts

While the pandemic has afforded artists the opportunity to get lost in their creativity, it has not provided much in the way of being able to show their work.

Over the final three months of 2020, the Gallery at Depot Square put together two shows, the second of which, Winter Solstice, is currently on display through Feb. 28. The Jaffrey Civic Center also reopened to host exhibits – with Daydreaming, featuring works by local artists Laura Blackmer and Mary Ann Sullivan, now hanging on the walls.

Fry Fine Art has yet to reopen since the gallery closed in March and owner Stan Fry said last month he is unsure when it will reopen. Since March, the Dublin Community Center has only hosted its annual Small Treasurers fundraising event and that was only viewable by appointment. Program Coordinator Volkert Volkersz said the return of art shows is still on hold.


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