The Town Hall Theater

Last week I attended a great event in downtown Middlebury, just yards from where the recent train derailment brought the town front and center on CNN—until the California fires raged and caught the public’s attention and great concern.

The event was the groundbreaking for the last phase of the Town Hall Theater project, a project that, when complete, will provide the town with a remarkable theater and public space in a building that was constructed in 1883 at the juncture of Merchants Row and Cross Street. The decade-long project, led so ably and enthusiastically by Doug Anderson, and supported by many in the local community, is critically important to our small town. It will provide a home for local theater, for a wide range of productions, for student groups to perform in town, and to strengthen the town’s civic culture.

The College supported this project early on, and weeks ago agreed to provide $1 million in additional support to allow for the final phase of the project to move forward, and for the theater to open by this coming June or July. Our support is in the form of a partnership. College students, faculty, and staff will be able to use Town Hall Theater facilities, students will obtain internship opportunities at the Theater, our Language Schools, so short on performance space on campus, will have use of the facilities for parts of the summer, and the Theater’s presence will have a positive economic impact on the town. Just as the town’s and College’s histories are so intertwined, so, too, are their futures, and I believe it is in the College’s best interest to contribute to the town’s vitality through this project.

Though the presence of Middlebury students in the local community, not to mention faculty and staff, is already quite significant, this project will diversity the kind of interaction our students have with the town. So many students now volunteer in the county across a wide range of volunteer programs or through “service learning” segments of their courses. Our Alliance for Civic Engagement (“ACE”), a vital hub of activity in McCullough Hall led so energetically by Tiffany Sargent, provides a remarkable array of opportunities for students to “do good” in the local community. In addition, a great number of our varsity athletes, encouraged by their coaches, mentor students in local elementary and secondary schools throughout Addison County.

Townspeople who work with our students and/or are the recipients of their volunteerism recognize and appreciate the strength and power of town/gown relations, but many, unfortunately, do not. Through the Town Hall Theater project, plus other collaborative projects we will develop with partners in town, the benefits of town and gown working together will be both enjoyed and recognized by a greater number within the Addison County community.

Perhaps most importantly, the Town Hall Theater and its anticipated full slate of performances will bring townspeople within Middlebury together on a noticeable and significant scale. Our town is not immune to the trends seen in many small, rural towns, which include the weakening of civic culture. The sentiment that “the College should stay up on the hill,” something one can still hear at Town meeting and in other public venues, must give way to a spirit of collaboration and mutual appreciation. I believe the Town Hall Theater project embodies this kind of spirit and it is overdue.

4 comments

While I think this is a fantastic deal to incorporate town-gown relationship with a need for more performing space, I think one must be wary that the Town Hall Theater is far away (physically) for students who are used to close walks to McCullough for entertainment.

This deal should be a supplement not a replacement for creating on-campus venues that fulfill the needs of students.

As I read in The Campus, McCullough will be under construction: what will we do? Where will Riddim, Middance, and ISO perform during that time? Surely moving these performances to the Town Hall theater will limit attendance significantly especially during winter. Even when McCullough gets renovated, what is the advantage of having performances in town other than to draw a local crowd? Maybe combined with Eat-Good-Food, there is some potential you will have to create strong incentives to use the Town Hall Theater space.

But assuming when there is huge demand for the space, who will get priority? Is this a student space or an academic space like the famously off-limits-to-students Wright Theater and CFA Theater?

Awesome to have a place in town but how will this practically play out? Or is it too soon to tell?

As a tax payer in the town of middlebury i am outraged that middlebury college is dictating who cannot park on a town road….

Middlebury College has told Engelberth Construction that All contractors and sub contractor are not allowed to park on rt 30 a TOWN ROAD that i as a TAXPAYER PAY for. The consequence for this? These contractors and sub contractors who continue to park on rt 30 will not be invited back to work at the college.

Now if i came to work and all the spaces on rt 30 were takin by college employees i wouldnt care… first come first serve, but the fact that Middlebury college has the audacity to “reserve” these places for their employees is aboslutly ridiculous and WRONG

Although this has nothing to do the Town Hall Theater, I would like to reply to anonymous above. Although Middlebury College should not dictate who parks on Route 30, the college has a right to tell contractors/subcontractors–they are paying–where it is appropriate to park on campus. All regular college employees are required to park in specified areas, and these temporary employees of the college should be no different.

As an aside, I would like to offer some feedback to you, President Liebowitz, on this blog. I applaud using this medium to share more information on your thoughts and views about campus issues. But as a blogger myself, I would love to see you respond to comments. Engaging your readers and commenters in this manner helps develop community and true dialog on your blog. Otherwise, this blog becomes simply another webpage.

Thanks and best wishes,
Allison Coyne Carroll, MCFA
http://maplemama.com

Yes — I will begin to spend some time replying to posts; so many of them have been thoughtful and have stimulated my thinking on a number of issues, so thanks for the nudge here.

RL

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