Mr. Wonka and Charlie

Sandisfield Arts Center 2019 in Review: Charlie, Community, Culture, and Celebrations

Adapted from an article in the December 2019 Sandisfield Times. Support the Times!

by Hilde Weisert

“Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” was the hands-down (applause up!) highlight of the 2019 season at the Arts Center, and, in its pure theatrical magic, probably a highlight of our entire 24 year history. Sets that dazzled, singing that soared, costumes that carried you to another world – the Sandisfield Players young and older under the direction of Ben Luxon and Jesse Howard brought a classic musical to vivid life for three performances June 14, 15, and 16.

With their versatility and range, the Players are a Sandisfield treasure, as also shown this season when they gave us scenes from Neil Simon plays (November 9) and even poetry (“Today’s Poets in Conversation with the Masters,” September 28). A special thank you  from me to Ben Luxon and the Players Tina Sotis, Jean Atwater-Williams, Mary Anne Grammer, and Val Coleman for joining us poets to make that a most memorable and moving program. See our website blog for a recording.

I’ve heard that our fall fundraising letter makes the claim that our variety of programs is the widest in South County. 2019 shows this is no exaggeration: Fun with Crosswords (thank you, Michelle Arnot); stimulating and timely talks from our scholars Bill Cohn and Val Coleman (Coleman gave out pocket US Constitutions at his inspiring and passionate lecture, “The Constitution Alive”); Dr. Robert Maryks on “Fascism and Racial Laws in Mussolini’s Italy” (preceded by a free showing of “The Garden of the Finzi-Continis”). Food for thought – but we also offer food for the soul, with music ranging from the Wanda Houston Band, the Blackstone Valley String Quartet (thank you, sponsors Steve and Lynn Rubenstein), Evening of Song with Linda Mironti and others, and world-class classical artists Fred Moyer with his MoyerCam and  Ed Arron and Jeewon Park (cello and piano). We’re delighted that Fred (with even more jazz) and Jeewon will be back next year.

We had more free community events than ever, with Bogart and Riley Muller continuing their summer Free Family Movie nights, an October Open House and Barbecue honoring our volunteers (and recruiting new ones!), and the season closer, “Open Mic Plus Grown Up Show and Tell” on November 22, a true celebration of Sandisfield spirit and scope. Start polishing up your act now; you’re on again next year. Local writer Jana Laiz gave a children’s book reading and with the Sandisfield Cultural Council’s help we were able to donate selections of her books to our Library and to the Farmington River School. Finally, master photographer and teacher Thad Kubis’ free Smartphone Photography workshop was such a hit that he’ll be back next year with four free sessions on each gallery-opening day.

Which brings up the Gallery—7 first-rate shows, paintings, sculpture, photography, always with a free opening reception.

Two local treasures brought us unique programs: Cider expert Tom Christopher with “Hard Cider Tasting” providing a delicious education in cider’s New England history and current revival, and Hannah Fries sharing poetry and photos from her book “Forest Bathing.”

On May 18 “The Best Little Performance Space in South County” Spring Fundraiser proved that a season sneak preview is a keeper – we hope to work it in every year.

All of this was possible and continues to be possible only because of our volunteers, our donors, and the Sandisfield Cultural Council. Watch our website for what’s coming next year, when we are “25 in 2020!” And consider a year-end gift to keep this diversity and our historic building on solid footing into our next 25 seasons.