Art Notes: Upper Valley offers varied entertainment options

By ALEX HANSON

Valley News Staff Writer

Published: 10-13-2023 8:01 PM

The sheer number of options is going to pose problems for people who want to be entertained away from their streaming services this weekend. You’re going to have to make some decisions, people.

The good thing, I guess, is that the quantity is matched by an admirable variety, from serious theater to visual art to a range of music. Here are four options, then something for next week.

Let’s go chronologically:

From Kabul to White River Junction

Northern Stage opens “Selling Kabul,” a brisk, 95-minute thriller set during the 2021 American withdrawal from Afghanistan.

The political rhetoric surrounding this episode is as caustic and partisan as any conflict of the past few decades. Art is meant to raise viewers above that, and Northern Stage is making an admirable commitment to telling a story about the experience of living through a momentous event.

“Selling Kabul” centers on Taroon, an interpreter hiding from the Taliban who faces the choice of whether to stay in Kabul or to try flee, with no guarantee of safety in either direction.

Sylvia Khoury’s play was a finalist for the 2022 Pulitzer Prize, and the creative team includes director Evren Odcikin, the interim artistic director of the Oregon Shakespeare Festival. Northern Stage also is partnering with community organizations assisting Afghan refugees in the Upper Valley.

The show is in previews Wednesday through Friday and opens Saturday night in Northern Stage’s Barrette Center for the Arts. For tickets ($19-69) or more information, go to northernstage.org or call 802-296-7000.

Opera onscreen

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Also in White River Junction, “Passion in a Pandemic,” a documentary by Norwich filmmaker Nora Jacobson screens at 7 on Thursday night at Briggs Opera House.

The film follows a group of Hanover High School students as they produce an opera during the COVID-19 pandemic, under the direction of former opera singer Jennifer Chambers and conductor Filippo Ciabatti. It recently premiered on PBS. The screening Thursday will be include a live performance by Hanover High singer Elizabeth Chambers and a post-film discussion with Jacobson and Jennifer Chambers. Admission is pay what you can, but with a suggested donation of $10. The event is sponsored by Junction Arts and Media and more info is available at uvjam.org.

Art and music off Colburn Park

AVA Gallery and Art Center, at 11 Bank St., in Lebanon, holds a reception from 5 to 7 Friday evening for new exhibitions featuring six artists. “Works in Clay: Jihye Han, Yeonsoo Kim, and Jenny Swanson” and solo shows of work by Cheryl Betz, Rachel Gross and Mary Mead will remain on view through Nov. 11. Betz, a mixed-media artist, Gross, who mixes printing and painting, and Mead, who works in a wide range of media, will participate in a panel discussion at 5:30 p.m. on Oct. 20.

After the art opening, you could amble across the park to the First Congregational Church for the bi-weekly Anonymous Coffeehouse, which starts at 7:30 p.m. with a performance by singer-songwriter Lillian Leadbetter. A Vermont native who now lives in Nashville, Leadbetter is releasing an album, “State of Romance,” on Friday. Following her will be The Twangtown Paramours, a Nashville-based Americana duo, and David Singley, a singer-songwriter and longtime backup player from St. Paul, Minn.

The beauty of these Lebanon events is their cost: free. AVA’s receptions are always free and open to the public and the coffeehouse is free, with free refreshments, though a hat is passed for the musicians.

Global music in Randolph

The Chandler Center for the Arts opens its season Friday night with a performance by Bab L’Bluz, which performs the traditional Gnawa music of Morocco, but is led by a woman, something largely unheard of. Gnawa, as Bab L’Bluz plays it, sounds like blues music, but played on North African instruments.

The global jam continues Saturday night with celebrated Pueblo musician Robert Mirabal taking the Chandler stage at 7 p.m.

For tickets or more information about Chandler’s season, go to chandler-arts.org.

Tuesday jukebox

For touring musicians, Tuesday nights tend to be quiet. Jakob Breitbach has been trying to change that, at least in the Upper Valley, by holding short series of Tuesday night performances that also turn into podcast episodes. He’s in the middle of the current series, which takes place at Hanover Strings on Tuesday nights. He pairs a local musician with someone who’s touring, an ongoing effort to build the audience for live music in the Upper Valley. JAM records the performances and releases them as podcast episodes, and Breitbach has acquired a sponsor for the series, White River Subaru, which makes it easier to keep it going.

Next Tuesday, Oct. 17, brings Nashville singer-songwriter Dana Cooper to Hanover. Opening for him will be Vermont singer-songwriter Allison Fay Brown. The series concludes the following week with a performance by River Glen, an Iowa singer-songwriter (and Breitbach’s brother), and Beecharmer, an Americana duo of Breitbach and his wife, Jes Raymond.

There’s a suggested donation of $10, and seating is limited, so RSVP at hereinthevalley.org/tuesday-jukebox.

Alex Hanson can be reached at ahanson@vnews.com or 603-727-3207.