Next Stage Arts Project hosts Dance Party Gala

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PUTNEY — Next Stage Arts Project to host a gala fundraiser, a '70s disco dance party, "You Make Me Feel Like Dancing!" on Friday at 7 p.m. The event will benefit Next Stage programming.

Next Stage, located at 15 Kimball Hill in Putney, will be transformed using movable risers to create a huge dance floor. There will be delicious light fare offered along with a live and silent auction of local and exotic treasures. A raffle of three large gift baskets with local products, gift certificates and other items will also take place during the Gala.

Auction items include: A six-night South African photo safari; a professional studio recording session with Emmy Award winning engineer/producer Billy Straus; an Alpental ski weekend getaway in Washington; a two-night stay at a Landmark Trust historic home in Vermont;a ukelele set and private lesson with Lisa McCormick; a pizza making party for eight with Greg and Robyn Weisel; a catered dinner for eight by Tim Allen; a private party or film screening at Next Stage; a decorative turkey platter by Laura Zindel; and a groovy VW Bus tent.

Dummerston resident Ned Childs will serve as auctioneer.

The Latchis Hotel and Theatre will provide sound and lighting tech for the evening. The event is sponsored by The Richards Group and GPI Construction. Tickets are $35 each, available at nextstagearts.org and at the door. Tickets include a paddle for the live auction and delicious light fare. There will also be a wine and beer cash bar.

Next Stage board member and co-chair of the Gala, Anita Dunlap said, "The community loves to dance and we thought what a better way to celebrate our first ever fundraising gala was to invite everyone to light up the dance floor with a '70s themed night at Next Stage." She continued, "We would like to thank our sponsors and all of the local businesses and individuals who have generously donated items for our raffle and live auction."

Genesis of Next Stage

Next Stage Arts Project has its roots in a one-off, benefit concert organized by Next Stage neighbor Sandglass Theater that took place on Nov. 20, 2009 at the former United Church of Putney, a Greek revival building, originally built in 1841. The concert was a fundraiser to help rebuild the recently burned down Putney General Store. Eric Bass of Sandglass Theater and Lyssa Papazian of the Putney Historical Society (owners of the building that houses the Putney General Store) saw a future for the dormant, former church as a vibrant performing arts and community center.

Shortly thereafter, four other Putney residents — musician Billy Straus, concert promoter Barry Stockwell, theater producer John Burt, and architect Chip Greenberg along with Eric Bass — formed what would become Next Stage Arts Project. Initially an advisory group to the Putney Historical Society, the core team undertook an exhaustive feasibility study to assess whether a performing arts center was a viable adaptation of the building. Next Stage Arts Project formed a standalone 501c3 in 2011, and has led the project from its inception, to the arts center and hub that is Next Stage today. The building is on the National Register of Historic Places.

Executive Director Maria Basescu said, "The remarkable rallying of this community, with support from donors and foundations across the country, to renovate this historic building into a beautiful, accessible, vibrant performing arts and community center, is a testament to our collective belief in the power of the arts to bring us together."

Bats in the Belfry

The building had a well-established history of bats roosting in the former church steeple and occasionally flying around inside of the sanctuary during events. While they definitely wanted the bats out of the inside of the building, white nose syndrome was taking a large toll on the bat population, so they wondered if there might be a way to create a bat-friendly habitat in the steeple. After consulting with Vermont Fish and Wildlife as well as the Organization for Bat Conservation, they cleaned out the inside of the steeple and specifically designed new louvers for it, to be conducive to brown bats' roosting preferences.

The theater seats came through a stroke of luck when Next Stage co-founder Barry Stockwell heard that the Kearsarge High School in Sutton, N.H., was planning an upgrade and their theater seats were earmarked for the dumpster. Next Stage was able to rescue 200 of the seats which turned out to be perfectly scaled for the venue. The seats were in excellent condition which saved $25,000. They also received a full size movie screen, donated by Landmark College.

Recently, Next Stage Arts Project, was awarded a $50,000 National Endowment for the Arts grant for their "Legacy Putney" project which celebrates the rich history of the Putney community through storytelling, dance and music.

The renovated performance arts space at 15 Kimball Hill seats 200 and is fully accessible and air-conditioned, with a large dance floor.

Next Stage diversified programming also includes an art gallery which is dedicated to Putney community members Tim and Waew Cowles. Tim Allen serves as curator and helped design and out-fit the gallery.

Next Stage also houses a full commercial grade kitchen which offers cooking classes and monthly community suppers, which are free and open to the public.

For more information and to buy tickets to the Gala event, contact nextstagearts.org or call 802-387-0102.

Victoria Chertok may be contacted at vcpeace@gmail.com.




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