The Power of Live Performance

I’ve been thinking a lot about the power of live performance. There is something about being in a setting where the audience and performer meet that is so exciting and invigorating to me. Will it be as polished as the performers have worked towards? Will something beyond anyone’s control (a bat, a police siren) get in the way? How will the performers handle the inevitable surprises (laughter, or lack of laughter, a mistimed entrance, etc.)?

A great audience is one that buys in to whatever is happening onstage – and if the performers are great, the venue is great, and the atmosphere around it (both planned and unplanned) are great, they all help to set the event up for success unlike anything else. When we get the perfect melding of audience and performer, where the performer feels supported and respected and the audience feels honored to be in attendance, and thinks of nothing else – what an incredible feeling! It’s different from a movie, and it’s different from the every day. And it does seem rarer to have everyone “in the moment” in today’s world.

I especially love performances in intimate venues. Try as we might to get that live, raw connection in a house of 5,000 people, or even 800, it’s just not the same. So that’s one of the things I love about the North Country. So many beautiful, historic venues, most available to rent for a song to whatever performers want to inhabit them for an evening –and they are typically small, often with flexible seating, so a crowd of 20 or a crowd of 200 can experience that live performance magic.

My theater company was recently up here with the Arts Alliance, and we made a point of bringing the live magic of musical theater to a few unexpected locations – we sang “Muddy Water” from Big River on the covered bridge in Littleton, and we gave a half hour performance of our favorites in the center of the Littleton Food Co-op to unsuspecting passerby! The latter had surprisingly awesome acoustics. I love “preaching the magic of musical theater” to whoever will listen – or whoever happens to be around! It can bring surprising results.

Ally Bergendahl performs "I'm The Greatest Star" from Not Your Mom's Musical Theater's concert series, Something Wonderful I Missed.

Ally Bergendahl performs “I’m The Greatest Star” from Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater’s concert series, Something Wonderful I Missed.

My own theater company’s concert last weekend in southern NH has me psyched up for more live performance this weekend. Karen Montanaro’s “Tanzspiel” at the Littleton Opera House was really special early this month – and it’s just incredible what one performer can do, solo! She’ll repeat the performance (although I’m sure it’s never quite the same twice) at the Medallion Opera House Friday, May 30, at 7 p.m. I hope we’ll get a good crowd out for restaurant deals, the show, and even some kids to perform with her! (More info here if you need it.) (We have a great video clip of Karen’s effect on a recent audience here.)

I hope you all have a chance for your own version of a “time out” this weekend, where you can de-stress, focus on something besides the mundane and the every day, and enjoy yourself for an hour or two. I look forward to a great educator workshop tonight for early childhood folks in Berlin with Karen, followed the next day by what I’m sure will be an unforgettable performance.

What about you? Please share what gets YOU energized about live performance?



Mime Dance and Musical Theater Take Over the North Country!


Perhaps a bit. But I saw two phenomenal school assemblies by Karen Montanaro, and let me tell you, her artform, “mime dance”, and her, are the real deal. Children were on the edge of their seat, staff were mesmerized – I cannot WAIT for her performance tonight. There are plenty of tickets, so come on by – and if your kids (in grades 3-7) want to join, they can come to a 6 pm rehearsal and be in the performance with Karen? Pretty great, right? Learn more here. Littleton Opera House at 7:30 p.m. and it’s for all ages. (She will be in Gorham May 30, so if you can’t make it tonight, it isn’t your last chance! More fun stuff to be announced.)

I’m also particularly excited that we’re bringing some lesser-known musical theater to Littleton and Plymouth next week. Not Your Mom’s Musical Theater is just that – a frequent reviewer of NYMMT described them this way,“If you want theatre that’s predictable, safe, familiar, and comfortable, then by all means, stay away from NOT YOUR MOM’S MUSICAL THEATRE. If, however, you like your theatre served up with a big ol’ heapin’ helpin’ of innovation, passion, quirkiness and quality, then get yourself to wherever they happen to be and treat yourself to a feast for the eyes, the ears, the heart and most importantly, the soul.” – Michael J. Curtiss, reviewer for Caught in the Act 

This is a rare chance to see lesser-known musical theater in the North Country, and these actors are stunning – incredibly versatile, fabulous voices – expect to laugh, maybe to cry, and definitely to be entertained. Don’t miss it. Powerful theater to be had! That being said, it’s best for ages 12 & up due to a bit of adult subject matter in a couple of songs. If you like music, you like theater, or you like arts you can’t find anywhere else, this is the place to be. Littleton Opera House at 7:30 p.m. next Saturday, May 10, and in Plymouth at Starr King Fellowship at 2:30 p.m. Enjoy Mother’s Day weekend and combine it with a meal – we’ve got special offers up on our page! Learn more about all of it and get your tickets here.

I am loving northern NH – and particularly loving the opportunity to help bring such amazing acts north. Thank you for spreading the word and supporting what we do – let’s keep doing that and make the arts scene even stronger in the North Country!

p.s. I captured a short but amazing clip of Karen (and the reaction she had on her audience) yesterday – I posted it today on the Arts Alliance of Northern NH Facebook page. Check it out!


Arts in the Schools Month, Or, A Crazy and Awesome Time For Arts in Northern NH

March is Music in the Schools/Arts in Education/Youth Arts month – and what an incredible month it’s been! The Arts Alliance (and I) have been extremely busy – and so have our schools! Here are some of the wonderful projects I’ve gotten to be a part of this month.

  • Arts in Early Learning: Where the Wild Things Are – What an incredible conference this is to be a part of! After two great sessions last fall, we continued our work through our contract with the Kennedy Center, with events in Berlin and Derry. Educators gave high praise for the experience, and we were as always thrilled to work with passionate, dedicated early learning educators who seek new ways to bring the arts (and through them, effective teaching) into their classrooms. Thanks so much to everyone who joined us! Watch for more of our VSA/Kennedy Center programs this spring.
  • Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem – This residency was an absolute delight, from start to finish. Rani, Andrew, Anand and Scott were a joy to work with in addition to being some of the most talented musicians I’ve ever seen. There is something about their energy and their voices that is incredibly accessible. (And I even got to jam with them – how cool!) They enchanted preschoolers and elders equally. Baby boomers and high-school students equally (but differently!) sang their praise. I’m so thankful I got to be a part of this! The two things I would have liked improved? No snow day on Thursday (the Littleton kids lost their assemblies and we had to cancel a workshop!) and while we had solid attendance at the concerts, I sure wish we’d packed the venues to capacity (maybe next time)! What a gem of a group.
  • Write Now! Conference – Looking forward to attending my first one this weekend – if the weather cooperates, we’ll have 300 teachers from across New England and Canada at the conference!
  • Inkas Wasi – We’re capping off the month with a residency with Inkas Wasi, a group of six South American musicians and dancers who perform the music of the Incas in native costume and with traditional instruments. We’ve got music & dance workshops (for teachers, community members and students) all over the region, with two public concerts — one on Thursday (in Intervale) and one on Friday (in Bethlehem). Join us for a rare glimpse of the music of the Andes in northern New Hampshire!

So, I guess that makes it obvious why I haven’t been posting blog entries as frequently as I should! Thanks for your patience, and for reading. Hope to see you at an Arts Alliance event soon!

Rani and the band performed at the Morrison House for an appreciative audience!

Rani and the band performed at the Morrison House for an appreciative audience!

Updates from the Arts Alliance of Northern NH – plus, I’m blogging nationally!

Hi friends!

With the craziness of moving, I’ve been negligent in posting, but I wanted to give you a few quick updates.

1. We’ve created a regional Program Book, and it isn’t too late for your business (or for you) to advertise while supporting quality arts programming across northern NH and beyond. Learn more here! We’re also offering discounted ads as a new member benefit.

2. We’ve got some wonderful events coming up, from professional development opportunities to great artist residencies – visit our website to learn more! I’m particularly excited that Rani Arbo & daisy mayhem will be performing and hosting a community jam (location TBA any day now)!

3. I was asked to contribute to blogs to the Americans for the Arts Rural Arts Blog Salon! One is on Rural Communities as Cultural Hubs in Northern NH, and the other is about cultivating a sense of place and environmental literacy in northern NH.

I’m honored to have been a part of it, and hope you’ll check it out if you have a moment – there are some great blog posts and discussion on their website.

p.s. Personal plug – I’m performing with my fiance and a couple of talented theater friends on Friday, March 7th in Bethlehem as a part of First Friday at my fiance’s new music studio (in the WREN Central offices behind WREN local works). If you’re in the area, I hope you’ll stop by! Open house with tea and treats starts at 5 p.m., with music from 6-8 p.m. It’s a great night out (gallery openings, etc.) if you haven’t visited yet.

Young Artist Moves North: Adventures in the North Country

A few things about me:

  1. I’m the new Program Manager for the Arts Alliance of Northern New Hampshire. If you’ve been following me, you know it’s been about three months now.
  2. I used to vacation in northern New Hampshire regularly, but now I’ve moved up north!  Just picked up the keys on Wednesday.
  3. I’m 29 years old.

That last part isn’t something I go around telling people normally, but with everything we hear about the need to encourage young people and young families to move (or move back) north, I’m happy to be an example of just that phenomenon. My fiancé Ross, an audio engineer and music instructor, and I are excited about being fully engaged in our new community.

I’ve always loved northern NH. When I was a kid, our one vacation each year (when we could afford it) was typically at a lake house in the North Country, so from a young age it was ingrained in me that vacationing meant swimming in a lake, homemade ice cream, and escaping to a rustic, gorgeous setting for a week. (The idea that I could one day live in the mountains year-round hadn’t yet crossed my mind!) By the time I was in college, my interest in the arts (and specifically musical theater) led me to catch summer stock whenever I could buy a ticket. In my mid-20’s I realized a dream of mine by working at the Weathervane Theatre in Whitefield (I spent a summer as the Assistant Musical Director, and it was a blast).

When the Arts Alliance began its hiring process for the brand-new position of Program Manager, I was thrilled – it honestly felt like this was the job I’d been waiting for my whole life. After graduating from college I worked in music and theater as a performer and teacher and also completed a master’s degree in community economic development. Volunteering in the nonprofit sector had shown me how fulfilling it is to take an active role in enriching community life, but in a terrible job climate I had struggled to find work in my chosen field. (In the meantime, I’d managed to create a theater company in southern NH, but our tiny grassroots company definitely wasn’t designed to pay the bills!)

Enter the Arts Alliance of Northern NH – a nonprofit that  brings the arts directly into our region’s classrooms and community sites, including cultural centers, town halls, libraries, social-service organizations, preschools and child-care centers, nursing homes and hospitals.

I’m excited about this job for many reasons. My favorite thing about the Arts Alliance is that collaboration is so important to what we do (we have partnerships with teachers and artists, cultural and conservation organizations, government agencies, educational institutions, health care providers and even our National Forest) and that educating through the arts is our primary focus. To reach all learners, it is imperative to present information and ideas in multiple ways, and the arts open up so many possibilities for this kind of learning – not to mention that learning through the arts is both effective and fun!

Strengthening our region through the growth and promotion of culture seems to me like a no-brainer: we have a growing number of performance and exhibit venues, a strong population of talented artists and an expanding group of small, entrepreneurial, creative businesses. What are your ideas for how arts and culture can better serve the region? Where would you like to see future Arts Alliance programming? 

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First night in the new place – I’ve got an air mattress and a light. What else do you really need?

Note: this blog is based on my own post to the Coos Networks blog.

Snowy Days in Piermont, NH And Beyond!

What a snow-filled week it’s been! I hope you’re staying warm!

Amidst the snowdrifts and chilly temperatures, we’ve been busy at the Arts Alliance. Friday I spent the morning at Piermont Village School, where traditional Andean musician Sergio Espinoza of Inkas Wasi was in residence with workshops and an all-school assembly. OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERA


The students learned about the history, culture, and (their favorite part) music of the people of the Andes, and in the afternoon they enjoyed an assembly full of traditional music and dance.  One of the most fascinating things for the kids was the variety of sizes of Andean flutes – they ranged from one that fits in the palm of your hand to a pair of flutes more than five feet tall that must be used together to play a scale!

We’re planning to bring Sergio back — along with three other musicians and two dancers — for a regional residency this spring, as part of our “Experiencing the World” multicultural programming. In addition to Inkas Wasi, we will be presenting dance, theater, mime, music and poetry residencies this winter and spring with renowned artists from all around New OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAEngland.   Get involved by reaching out to me at

I wonder what arts programs you remember from your own childhood – I’d love for you to share! My favorites included poets, inspiring talks –including one about the Gullah people that I especially  loved. I also enjoyed field trips to see theater performances and experience museums.

Finally, we’re always looking for stories about why the arts — and the Arts Alliance! —  are important to you. We’d love to hear from you.           Arts in Education

p.s. If you have a story about rural/small-town America, maybe you should share it with NPR. Learn more here.

Arts Fairs in NH – Not Just A Passing Fad!

Out and about in New Hampshire this past weekend, it struck me that the “buy local” movement has really picked up steam in our state. While the national trend of mall and big box shopping continues, here in the Granite State there are definitely significant numbers of shoppers who are seeking to make a local impact when they shop for gifts this holiday season. nitelites

A quick stroll through the local papers shows we had more than fifteen local arts markets this past weekend across New Hampshire (downtown Manchester had three different hubs for local arts on Saturday). Incredible! From the usual open hours of the Picker Building in Nashua (a wonderful old mill building with three floors of artists) in the southernmost portion of our state, to church holiday fairs and events, art was everywhere – not to mention activities for kids at tree lighting ceremonies, parades and even the Hobo Railroad in Lincoln! In our region there were productions of the Nutcracker ballet in Bethlehem and Berlin and great holiday concerts. train Christmastrain Christmas

MM bridal fun

How fun is this photo from last year’s Midnight Merriment in Concord?

I myself made a trip down to Midnight Merriment in Concord – shopping local is extra fun when all the businesses are open until midnight, and I made sure to tour the Kimball House Mansion while I was there.

There are just as many opportunities for shopping local this weekend, so don’t fret if you didn’t find time last week! Victorian Christmas in Littleton Friday night should be a blast, and the William Rugh Gallery in Lancaster has a holiday show and sale. You won’t want to miss the WREN Cookie Walk (this Saturday) in Bethlehem; WREN also has a holiday party Thursday evening if you can’t wait that long for some festive fun. The Rey Center in Waterville Valley also hosts its Holiday Fair for a few more weeks.

Let us know what your shop-local, attend-local plans are for this week. Planning to go to events I haven’t heard about yet? I’d love for you to leave a comment here.  We also promote our members’ events on Facebook and Twitter (as well as in our e-calendar), so if you have something to share, please reach out to me at

I’m hard at work lining up our programming for this winter and spring while working on our Annual Appeal campaign. Know a school in need of arts programming? Have a business looking to support arts in their community? Send them my way!

Stay warm, and have a wonderful week!