Northern Stage, the professional theater company in White River Junction, VT, is happy to announce that they have purchased the 1.5-acre property that includes the former Miller Auto building on Gates Street in downtown White River Junction. This is the next step in the company's long-term vision for continuing to offer high-quality theater productions and classes in this growing community.
The purchase was completed on November 13, 2008, just days before rehearsals began for "Les Misérables," perhaps the most ambitious show in the company's history.
"This is the first step of our dreams for the future," said Brooke Ciardelli, Northern Stage's artistic director and founder. "The support of this community has enabled us to reach a point where we need to look toward future growth. We ultimately want to develop a facility that will better accommodate expansive productions like "Les Misérables," which features major Broadway talents, as well as our expanding theater education program."
Mike Gerling, the president of Northern Stage's Board of Directors, acknowledges that the company must proceed with enthusiasm tempered with caution. "We have completed marketing and financial feasibility studies that tell us the community wants to support Northern Stage's long-range plans. But we must be prudent and take into account the overall economic climate. We are pleased to make this commitment to downtown White River Junction as we plan for our future growth. We still have much work to do and we plan to involve and inform the public every step of the way to make sure that we are both responsible and responsive."
Northern Stage was founded in White River Junction in 1997 and began leasing the second floor of the Miller Building through the generosity of the late Bill Miller in 2001. The lease was extended to most of the first floor in 2007. The company currently uses the building to rehearse their professional productions, to create and store the hundreds of costumes required, to build sets and props, and to accommodate their growing theater arts education program, which offers classes for ages 4 through adult.
The transaction was possible via a generous restricted gift from Ray and Cynthia Barrette. The company currently performs at the Briggs Opera House under a long-term lease. Previously, the company purchased two apartment buildings in the town of Hartford, where they house staff members.
Northern Stage produces seven major shows per year, including comedies, dramas and musicals, during their October-through-May season, using top professional actors from New York and around the country, many of whom have Broadway and National Tour experience. This year they anticipate selling approximately 35,000 tickets to events and classes in downtown White River Junction.
Northern Stage's theater arts education program includes year-round theater arts classes; the Ensemble, a theater training and leadership group for ages 8-18; and Project Playwright, an innovative literacy program that sends professional playwrights into area schools to guide fifth and sixth grade students through the process of writing their own original plays.
Northern Stage has twice won the Moss Hart Award for excellence in professional theater from the New England Theatre Conference, as well as an Addison Award from theater-mirror.com and two Telly Awards for excellence in video production.