For the first time at Northern Stage's Barrette Center, Carol Dunne is taking to the stage. Dunne, the theater company's Producing Artistic Director, is portraying Elizabeth Bishop in Dear Elizabeth, stepping into the role previously played by Susan Haefner in the earlier part of the play's run.
Acting is just another in a tower of hats that Dunne wears and balances--simultaneously--with nary a wobble. When she steps out from behind her administrator's desk, Northern Stage audiences regularly see Dunne introducing an evening's performance and chatting animatedly in the Barrette Center lobby post-performance. Her abundant energy has carried her through a hectic and satisfying year of recognition and accomplishments.
Dunne has just been named as Innovator of the Year by the Hanover Area Chamber of Commerce, an award that recognizes "individual(s) who have shown creative progress and significant contribution in their field." She'll be honored at the Hanover Inn on November 1, and will be on hand to see Northern Stage receive its own award as the Small Business Innovator of the Year.
Innovator is an apt term. In the past year, Dunne's body of work at Northern Stage and the New London Barn Playhouse earned her a Genius Grant of $250,000 from The Pussycat Foundation; the proceeds were split to support the work of both theaters. Immediately thereafter, Dunne got to work to resolve the problem of gender disparity in the theater: too few women making their way to the top. The Genius Grant was followed by a $1.2 million grant from the same foundation to establish the BOLD Theater Women's Leadership Circle, led by Dunne "to create a network of women artistic directors in professional theaters across the United States and empower them to address the issues preventing women from advancing in theater leadership." Dunne and a board of advisors selected four other women-led theaters (in Atlanta, Houston, Minneapolis, and New York City) from numerous applicants across the country to participate in the initial-year BOLD program.
The Pussycat Foundation grants have had a direct and welcomed impact on communities in the Upper Valley. They have helped to expand Northern Stage's BridgeUp Program and the newly-created BridgeUp Musical Theater Program in area schools, in which Northern Stage takes theater, including Shakespeare, to the classroom. The grants shepherded by Dunne allowed the programs to increase from 4 to 8 schools, serving almost 300 students and family and community audiences. Then there's Boot Camp, Northern Stage's new program for young people who are looking for early training in professional theater.
The creation of these programs, local and nationwide, and the securing of their funding might have justified Dunne in pausing to take a breath. Instead, she directed four plays in the past year: Cabaret at Dartmouth, last year's Disgraced at Northern Stage, the world premiere of Only Yesterday, and this season's production of Dear Elizabeth in which she is about to star.
Finally, New York City is calling. Trick or Treat, a play by Jack Neary starring Gordon Clapp, was first workshopped at Northern Stage's 2016 New Works Now. It will premiere off-Broadway in New York in January 2019. Carol Dunne will direct.
(Dear Elizabeth, starring Carol Dunne and Thom Miller, will run until October 28. Photo, top, of Dunne and Miller in Dear Elizabeth. For information and tickets, contact Northern Stage at 802.296.7000 or visit its website.)
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