Located in White River Junction, VT, Northern Stage is a LORT-D professional theater company with a mission to change lives, one story at a time. Northern Stage presents world-class theatrical productions, offers extensive educational and outreach programs, and develops new works, reaching more than 50,000 community members each year. The theater has been led by Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne since 2013.
Northern Stage was founded in 1997 by Brooke Wetzel Ciardelli, and for more than 15 years, performances took place at the historic Briggs Opera House. Quickly, Northern Stage became the preeminent year-round theater company in the Upper Valley, offering professional productions of world premieres, classics, and musicals.
After Ciardelli’s departure in 2013, the Board of Directors engaged Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne, who in tandem with then-Managing Director Eric Bunge elevated the organization to a new level and spearheaded the fundraising for and construction of the new Barrette Center for the Arts in the historic district of downtown White River Junction. The Barrette Center opened to great acclaim in 2015.
In 2014, Dunne launched the New Works Now series with a commitment to the creation of new plays and musicals for the American theater. The program has been extraordinarily successful, and works that began as developmental readings in our NWN program have continued to our mainstage, Off-Broadway in New York, and beyond.
Northern Stage’s robust educational program focuses on professional training in a nurturing and supportive environment for students of all ages. Offerings include student acting ensembles, a summer musical theater intensive, and an expansive theater-in-the-schools residency program.
In 2017, Dunne earned a Genius Grant from the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation, for her achievements in theater arts, recognizing her as a pioneering artist and artistic director. Soon thereafter, Dunne became the inaugural leader of the BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle, a visionary initiative created to bridge the career gaps for women in the American theater. The program has supported the elevation of brilliant women leaders including Tamilla Woodard, Rachel Karpf, Sarah Ramussen, Tinashe Kajese-Bolden, Jess Chayes, Susan Booth, and Christina Baldwin into major roles in theater leadership and continues to build a new vision of inclusive, compassionate theater leadership.
Today, Dunne and Managing Director Jason Smoller, along with a talented staff of 25 theater professionals, are guiding the theater through a project to build new housing for the support of artists and artisans, and an endowment to ensure that the company can provide world class art, education and community connection for generations to come.
In 2014, Northern Stage embarked upon the Campaign for Northern Stage, a $9 million plan to build our own theatrical home and capitalize the company for future stability and growth. The Barrette Center for the Arts was opened – on time and under budget – in October of 2015. With a building cost of $7.4 million, this 240-seat modified-thrust theater enhances the live theater experience and allows Northern Stage’s audiences and artists to explore exciting new dimensions in theatrical programming and artistry. Additionally, the Campaign for Northern Stage raised $1.6 million to build a financial foundation upon which the organization will thrive.
EXCELLENCE: We strive for world class in all we do. We offer a breadth of programming and depth of experience that is worthy of our audiences and representative of the voices, colors and experiences of the world. We leverage the power of Northern Stage’s 240 seat state of the art venue and our location in a rural region to deeply, intimately connect to our audiences. We innovate to achieve excellence, by stewarding emerging writers, cultivating best practices in all areas, and implementing tools for continual assessment and improvement.
COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT: We endeavor to build the arts/community connection. We collaborate within the organization to support each other in reaching our highest achievements, and with community partners for mutually beneficial results. Through our actions, on-stage and off, we are responsive to the desires of our community and speak to their truths, here and now, making Northern Stage indispensable to the lives of those we serve.
RESPONSIBILITY: We gather and carefully manage our resources to ensure a vital Northern Stage today, tomorrow, and for the future. We aspire to be an antiracist institution and actively work to create recruitment practices and a company culture that supports all people to do their best work. Our ecosystem is comprised of artists, donors, businesses, audiences, community members, and staff. We are accountable to these parties in our programming choices, policies, procedures, and financials.
LEARNING: We teach, nurture and inspire all generations of theater artists and theater lovers. We invest time and energy in mentorship, both structured and informal.
Inclusion, Equity, Diversity, and Access at Northern Stage
Theater shows us visions of how the world can be, and we take the responsibility of envisioning seriously. As artists in a changing world, we strive to continually open ourselves up to new ideas and practices. We believe the most important and impactful art is made when we consider and commit to inclusion, diversity, equity and access both on and off of our stages to make Northern Stage a welcoming place for everyone. We aspire to make excellent work that is representative of our global community, and we aspire to uplift voices that aren’t always heard, challenging ourselves to be the best possible humans and artists. Though uncomfortable at times, we can only change lives by asking the hard questions: Who are the voices of tomorrow, what are the stories yet to be told, and how can we change lives with our art? With the support of our community, Northern Stage is committed to finding out the depth and breadth of the impact theater can have on our world.
The company offers full productions at the Barrette Center for the Arts from September to May each year. Northern Stage draws talented artists from the region and across the country, many of whom have Broadway, Regional Theater, and National Tour credits. Seasons include world premieres, classics, comedies, dramas, musicals, and new shows fresh from Broadway and London’s West End. Click here to view a list of our past productions.
Northern Stage offers students of all ages a year-round schedule of educational programs, including youth training and in-school programs, and adult learning opportunities, taught by and mentored by working theater professionals. Week-long summer camps may include topics such as Shakespeare, dance, singing, musical theater, storytelling, and creating a play, among others, and culminate in a final performance for family and friends. Northern Stage’s Summer Musical Theater Intensive, designed for students ages 12-18, includes four weeks of rehearsal and culminates in a fully-produced musical. Integral to Northern Stage’s educational programs is the Youth Ensemble Studio (YES), a group of young actors who develop, rehearse, and perform three pieces throughout the season, a Fall Showcase, a Winter White Box production, and a fully-produced Spring production (Shakespeare or musical). The hallmark of Northern Stage’s educational and outreach programming is our intensive BridgeUP: Theater in the Schools program. BridgeUP brings professional teaching artists into area classrooms for a month-long residency to empower students to speak Shakespeare’s language, perform songs, learn choreography, and embrace public performance. Click here to learn more about our current educational and outreach programs.
In 2014, New Works Now began as an annual festival of workshops that culminate in public readings. This program is designed to enrich the theater experience of our audiences and artists who are hungry for daring and impactful stories. Post-show responses are valuable to the play development process and have shown that our unique audiences are willing to engage with new work in a collaborative environment. New Works Now attracts submissions from all over the country, sees talented performers, directors, and dramaturgs lending their expertise to the process, and plays to sold-out houses. As we continue to adapt to living with COVID-19, New Works Now has shifted from a festival format to a series of new works workshops throughout the season. This flexible structure allows us to better support artists health and safety as well as offering creative teams multiple developmental touch points throughout the year.
Northern Stage’s commitment to new work development serves as a guiding light for our company and has helped rebrand Northern Stage as a bold and visionary theater for our complicated times. Click here to learn more about New Works Now.
The BOLD Theater Women’s Leadership Circle, led by Northern Stage Producing Artistic Director Carol Dunne, and supported by the Helen Gurley Brown Foundation, offers major support of artistic initiatives focused on women+ artists and creates a formal mentorship program to train and prepare future women artistic directors to lead, create, innovate, and deepen the impact of theater on the American culture. Along with a $225,000 grant for each theater, the BOLD Circle provides leadership resources for women artistic directors and networking opportunities in semiannual meetings. It also provides for a woman+ Associate Director position designed to train the artistic directors of the future.
The BOLD Circle was created to address the small percentage of women artistic directors in the American theater. A recent study by Wellesley Centers for Women, commissioned by American Conservatory Theater Artistic Director Carey Perloff and former Executive Director Ellen Richard, revealed that women hold only 20% of artistic leadership positions in the American regional theater, and that the dearth of female theater leaders is not due to a lack of candidates but rather to a clearly observed glass ceiling preventing women from assuming the artistic helm of professional theaters.
Click here to learn more about BOLD Circle