Dunne fosters regional, campus theater projects

by Lauren Sarner | 1/6/14 4:59pm

Former theater professor Carol Dunne doesn’t mind a full plate. In her first season as artistic director at White River Junction’s Northern Stage theater, she directed “White Christmas,” helped organize a play reading festival and announced a capital campaign to build a new theater.

Wasting no time to address the Northern Stage’s recent financial woes, she’s spearheaded outreach programs to boost attendance at the Northern Stage and sought out new ways to encourage collaboration between the theater and the College.

Dunne said she hopes to make the Northern Stage “a breeding ground for creativity” and has turned to professional contacts at Dartmouth to achieve her goal. The theater’s first production this season, Reginald Rose’s “Twelve Angry Men,” featured performances by theater professors Jamie Horton and Christian Kohn and lighting design by theater professor Dan Kotlowitz. Theater professor Laurie Kohn designed costumes for the second production, “God of Carnage.”

Dunne also plans to recruit alumni and current students and give them the chance to intern or work in a professional theater. This term, Amber Porter ’14 and Chris Gallerani ’15 are interning at the Northern Stage. Olivia Scott ’13 began a full-time position on the theater’s community engagement team last spring.

“My dream is that the Northern Stage helps Dartmouth students become skilled in the profession, not just to study and learn, but an actual occupation so that they can have a real impact,” Dunne said.

In the months ahead, the Northern Stage will try to build its existing relationship with the College. In January, the theater will host its first play reading festival, including original work by visiting playwriting professor Joseph Sutton ’76 and Kate Mulley ’05. Dunne will direct the third play of the festival, by local playwright Marisa Smith.

The theater also hopes to boost student attendance at its shows by offering students $10 “anytime” tickets to attend productions. With a capacity of 240 seats, student tickets will still offer exceptional stage views, Dunne said.

Dunne’s efforts so far seem fruitful, as over 100 students attended the “Twelve Angry Men” production, a jump from the handful of student attendees at past shows, Dunne said. On average, show attendance is up this season, with over 1,000 unique new visitors to the theater during the fall.

Scott described Dunne as an “enthusiastic, fearless, down to earth and extremely relatable” person who takes on new projects with enthusiasm and produces measurable results.

“She’ll tell you what you want, and you’re able to go do it,” Scott said.

Horton said the Dunne’s ambitious vision at the Northern Stage will provide rich opportunities for students, faculty and staff going forward.