ARTBITS by Richard B. Harper

VOLUME 4 * * All Arts News On the Web * * May 4, 2000


      ArtBits always features a calendar of the goings on of Franklin County artists. Check out these events around Franklin County. Each issue includes the entire text of our weekly newspaper column.

      There is a free AAC Networking Meeting/Coffee House at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. These gatherings bring new opportunities, gossip, and workshops every month at Simple Pleasures in St Albans.


      The homeless Arts Council has found a home. Starting tonight, our regular AAC CoffeeHouse moves to Simple Pleasures! The Hubcats will perform from 7 to 8 p.m. and the original paintings of young Franklin County artist Jessica Barney will be on exhibit. The artwork will remain at Simple Pleasures through May 30.
      The Hubcats, Fred Brauer and Stewart Foster, play acoustic guitar and mandolin in coffee houses and concerts around Vermont. Their repertoire includes the songs of James Taylor, Lyle Lovett, and Jimmy Buffet (really). They are members of the Cambridge Arts Council.
      Our CoffeeHouse will always have music, networking time, and "show-and-tell;" it is held at 7 p.m. on the first Thursday of every month. If turnout is good tonight, we will "double up" to the first and third Thursdays. Watch the newspapers, check, and look for posters for the performers and the art on exhibit.
      Simple Pleasures is at 84 North Main Street, a few doors before City Hall, in St Albans. Admission is free but donations will be happily accepted.


      Carl Whitehouse, Lili Gamache, Ernie Hemingway, and Joan Grant started Suitcase Theater in 1992 as a touring children's theater company sponsored by the Rotary Club of St Albans.
      On Tuesday, the Rotary presented directors Ernie Hemingway and Joan Grant with checks for a ninth season to add to a record of 200 performances and thousands of audience members. "We are all very grateful for the contributions of the St Albans Rotary," Ernie said.
      There are two companies. Joan Grant of BFA-St Albans directs the older, mostly senior high student troupe. The younger crew, directed by Ernie Hemingway of Highgate Elementary, is mostly middle school students. Suitcase Theater does more than produce plays.
      "My Traveling Storyteller was birthed through the philosophy of Suitcase Theater," Ernie said. They bring puppetry, storytelling, crafts and fine and gross motor activities to libraries and other venues.
      "My mission is to promote literacy," she said.
      Suitcase Theater combines an intense one-week workshop to learn theater craft, rehearse, and put a show together with a second week of performances in nearly every library in Franklin County plus Alburg. Through the years, Suitcase has extended into Grand Isle County. They perform two or more shows each day and work with about 2,000 kids each year. "We did 16 performances in four days last year," Ernie said.
      "It is a great program not only for the libraries but also for the children and teens involved," Joan Grant said.
      The plays are all for children. The BFA-based company's repertoire included Kipling's 'Just So' stories, 'Marybell,' and 'King Cole's Court,' while the Swanton-based company has performed such favorites as 'The Unhoppy Bunny,' 'Peter Pan,' and 'Hansel and Gretel.' The audience loves slapstick and tongue in cheek shows. Parents in the audience all like the jokes, too.
      The cast often improvises a show they have rehearsed and end up relying on the story rather than the staging. The unusual venues teach them how to use entire sets, partial sets or just one or two props. "The actors learn the whole theater craft and bring that back to the stage with them," Joan Grant said.
      Suitcase and Traveling Storyteller have gained renown beyond the local area. The Tunbridge World's Fair wants a puppetry packet package for this summer to celebrate Thomas Jefferson's and James Madison's stay in Vermont. The Tyler Place features the Traveling Storyteller every Saturday; Suitcase played there last summer as well.
      Traveling Storyteller has performed about 140 shows in 17 months. Their repertoire includes Little Red Riding Hood, Three Bears, Three Little Pigs, Hansel and Gretel, and Rumpelstiltskin. They recently premiered the Princess and the Pea. "We're using a bowling ball for the pea," Ernie said.
      Suitcase Theater South (the older troupe) is still planning the summer 2000 season. Suitcase Theater North will follow the summer library theme of Time Travel and will present the Frog Prince and the Dragon of Krakow. This year's performers will include Bryce Bachelder, Drew Ede, Wiley Holiman, Trish Lamothe, Evan Marsha, Trevor Marsha, Jon Roddy, Matt Roddy, and Melissa Rixford, plus adults Rina Choiniere, Joan Grant, and Ernie Hemingway. Libraries and other organizations can book Suitcase South through Joan Grant (802-527-6544) or Suitcase North and Traveling Storyteller through Ernie Hemingway (802-868-4259).
      Thanks to the St Albans Rotary, Suitcase will continue a great program not only for the library audiences but also for the children and teens carrying the bags.


      The AAC organized the art and entertainment for the 34th Annual Maple Festival and I am happy to report that it was a great success. Like any volunteer organization, we depend on a few hard (and hardy) workers to pull off that kind of magic: Alice and Ed Astleford, Donna Barre, Diana Herder Bennett, Bob and Joanne Brodeur, Anne Harper, Dave and Kheya Kiefner, Joy Mashtare, Mark Montalban, and Wayne Tarr did yeoman service to make these shows happen. Thank you all.


MONTGOMERY--The FNESU art teachers present the Third Annual FNESU Art Gala in the Montgomery Grange Hall, today through Saturday only. The exhibit showcases superb works by the art students in northeastern Franklin County. Open today until 5 p.m., Friday, 10 a.m.-8 p.m., and Saturday 9 a.m.-12 noon.

SOUTH BURLINGTON--Run for Cover plays the Holiday Inn Friday and Saturday evening at 9 p.m.

EVERYWHERE--Saturday is the 30th Annual Green Up Day in Vermont.


      This is "J" week as we continue to explore the art and music of some United Nations countries.
      Artworks Jamaica is a virtual exhibit for artists across Jamaica to show (and sell) their work. The site includes an overview of Jamaican art and a calendar of events.
      The Web Kanzaki offers English introductions to the journalism, computing and traditional arts of Japan with categories of arts and books, calligraphy, galleries, an introduction to Japanese traditional art, photography, and links to literary websites.


      ArtBits features a quick weekly peek at the bookshelf or night stand of the folks you know in and around Franklin County. That popular feature has a page of its own at the Franklin County Bookshelf here on the AAC site.


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Dick Harper, Chair

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