Monday, June 22, 2009

I found out yesterday that just before we left for Denver last week, the Grim Reaper had come for The North Shore Music Theater.

This local institution drew audiences from northern Massachusetts—and even Boston—as well as from southern New Hampshire. Its closing cannot be blamed completely on the current financial crisis, but the crisis did create conditions that prevented the theater from pulling itself out of its terminal financial situation.

North Shore did quality productions. It grew out of a 1950s summer stock tent into a strongly patronized regional theater that attracted first-rate talent from New York and occasionally some of the best of Boston’s actors and singers. In recent years, Fritz and I saw a fine Carousel there starring Aaron Lazar (male romantic lead in the Broadway hit “Light in the Piazza”), and an excellent production of Steven Sondheim’s Pacific Overtures.

But in 2005 a late night electrical fire devastated the building. Insurance didn’t cover the full cost of the damages, and the general manager’s gamble on renting expensive theater space in Boston to mount two productions while it was being rebuilt didn’t pay off. Debt grew when the new space’s reduced seating and other losses worsened the bottom line. When a new Artistic Director with no theater management experience took over, there was a staff revolt, crippling management resignations, and a deficit that rose to $5 million. With the debt greater than the assessed value of the 22 acre property, and with little hope of raising money from investors, North Shore announced it was closing for good. Subscribers who had paid for 2009-10 season tickets were informed that there was no way of refunding their money.

Speculation is that the property in desirable Beverly, MA will be purchased by a developer. Yet another mall, condo colony, whatever. One more valuable performance venue/cultural resource is gone.


Alex Ross (of the great music blog The Rest is Noise, classical music critic for The New Yorker magazine, and multiple prize-winning author) on the accelerating elimination of arts criticism and comment from our newspapers:

“A digression on the sufferings of the newspaper business. I think the firing of critics and of various other thoughtful journalists will be seen as one of the industry's major blunders. The greatest mistake has been the panicky preoccupation with all things Internet — the decision to give away "content" for free, the attempt to sound "bloggy," the urge to make writing interactive, the narrow-minded focus on counting hits.

“Several years ago I wrote in passing: ‘I never took economics, but it seems to me that a company that gives away its product for free is committing suicide.’ I received a flurry of e-mails saying that if I had taken economics I would have understood that in the brave new world before us paid circulation didn't matter and newspapers would recoup any losses with online advertising. As in other areas of postmodern finance, my lack of training in economics didn't necessarily hinder my understanding of the situation. I'm generally a fan of the wacky world wide web, but I don't believe that it will put traditional journalism out of business, any more than television replaced movies or recording replaced live performance. The false either/or of Internet vs. print should be put to rest. And publications should emphasize their strengths and not their weaknesses.”


So, some pictures of our recent trip to Colorado. The riches of the Denver Museum of Art are such that I’ll be spreading them out over a number of posts. We had two objectives: Fritz to deliver a presentation on “Reaching the Reluctant Learner”—not a title he would have chosen but the subject asked for by the education conference held at the Keystone Resort and Conference Center; and to have some fun in Denver before flying back to New Hampshire. Here’s the start of the trip:

The Loveland Pass at 11,990 feet above sea level, above the snow line, high enough to cause some labored breathing due to thin air.

While Fritz was presenting at the conference, I did some sightseeing on the road between Keystone and Breckenridge (the evening before, we'd found a dynamite Scottish/Irish pub along it). Somewhere in the area there was an antique auto rally. Convoys of cars and trucks passed me going in the other direction.

Wherever there was a rock outcropping on or near the very edge of a cliff, a house seemed to be perched on it.

Part of a huge chipmunk colony in residence at a scenic overlook near Breckenridge. Look closely.

Hotel de Paris, a mid 19th century building converted into a hotel by a French immigrant in 1875, now the museum in Georgetown, CO. In its heyday, Georgetown had no fewer than four fire stations scattered around its relatively small area. With that kind of coverage, the town avoided the devastating fires that regularly leveled most other wooden cities of the time. It stands now as a perfectly preserved Victorian-era town.

I did summer stock on Cape Cod in the early 70s & North Shore was then, the apex of summer stock then.
I hate to hear this news.

thanks for the pics of your trip.
That's very sad news about the North Shore Music Theater. I have so many fond memories of the place. In high school we used to take a class trip out there every spring to see a Shakespeare play. I have especially vivid memories of a production of King Lear. I saw Theodore Bikel in a production of Zorba, and then met his family at one of the beaches in my home town.

Great Colorado pictures. Back in 1984, I remember really getting winded at Loveland Pass because I sprinted up an incline in pursuit of a rare alpine butterfly. I was successful- but I swear it nearly killed me!
indeed, it is sad to hear about arts not thriving.
I fear for my various symphonies and opera companies
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