Opera House Arts launches artist residency program



Meg Taintor, producing artistic director at Opera House Arts, started work last June, replacing the organization’s founding co-director Linda Nelson. Taintor has organized the winter residency. PHOTO COURTESY OF MEG TAINTOR
Meg Taintor, producing artistic director at Opera House Arts, started work last June, replacing the organization’s founding co-director Linda Nelson. Taintor has organized the winter residency.
PHOTO COURTESY OF MEG TAINTOR

STONINGTON — For some, the Maine winter is a time to hibernate. For others, the brisk air is what’s needed to clear the head.

However the artists staying in Stonington over the next couple of months choose to appreciate winter’s rugged charms, they’re all coming here for the inspiration that may elude them in whatever city or community they call home.

The five groups of writers, directors and performers staying at Opera House Arts (OHA) between February and April are participating in the Harbor Residency, a new program created by Producing Artistic Director Meg Taintor.

Last June, Taintor took over as OHA’s producing artistic director after almost 10 years directing a small theater company in Boston. She replaced OHA co-founder Linda Nelson, who now works for the Maine Arts Commission.

Taintor came up with the idea, she said in an interview, after realizing that Stonington Opera House “sits fallow to some extent in winter.” In its first season, the residency will “be a cash-free exchange, basically offering space and time to the resident artists.”

As for the benefits of such an experience, Taintor said the resulting “sense of enforced isolation” can spur the creativity and productivity of artists removed from New York, Boston or wherever else they’ve been working.

Each batch of residents will work on a particular project.

Julia Sears is one of the artists who will be participating in the Harbor Residency at Opera House Arts, a program recently started to make use of Stonington Opera House in winter. Sears is co-writing a project called “Women in Combat,” which will probe the role of women in the U.S. military. PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIA SEARS
Julia Sears is one of the artists who will be participating in the Harbor Residency at Opera House Arts, a program recently started to make use of Stonington Opera House in winter. Sears is co-writing a project called “Women in Combat,” which will probe the role of women in the U.S. military.
PHOTO COURTESY OF JULIA SEARS

The first, titled “Women in Combat,” will start Feb. 29. To explore the combat roles women have played in the U.S. military, co-writers Julia Sears and Maggie Moore will be researching the stories of Maine women who have served in the armed forces. They eventually hope to produce a play that probes the issue.

For the second project, starting March 12, writer Jefferson Navicky will work on a play. According to a project description, the script will “have an essential absurdist element to it” and concern “a bear named Dexter, who leaves her home in the woods to try to make it as a stage actor.”

Beginning March 21, actor and director Dale Young will draft a manuscript about a woman named Susan Adamek, an orphan from Wisconsin who eventually becomes a wife, mother, artist, college student and advocate for women.

Beginning March 29, multimedia artist and educator Judith Sloan will continue a project started in 2015, when she collected stories from all manner of Mainers: those with deep roots, those who have returned and those who recently arrived from other states and countries. She will continue that research, while starting to develop a theatrical piece to be performed next summer.

The last residents, who start April 23, belong to a theater company from Brooklyn, N.Y., called Current Harbor. They will be working on “Unsex Me Here,” a project titled after a line in “Macbeth.” The group describes the project as “a vicious showcase of the wicked ladies from William Shakespeare’s plays. Lady Macbeth, Cleopatra, Regan and Goneril, Queen Margaret and Tamora join forces in this memory play to pose the question: Why are we addicted to male villains and averse to their female counterparts?”

Along with the work residents put into their own projects, they will each also participate in a public potluck dinner, lead a class or workshop for local students or members of the public and conclude their residencies with a performance.

The latter task, Taintor said, is meant for both the public, who get to enjoy a reading or show and “see what happened here,” and the artists, whose work can benefit from “the pressure.”

Charles Eichacker

Charles Eichacker

Reporter at The Ellsworth American
Charles Eichacker covers the towns of Bucksport, Orland, Castine, Verona Island, Penobscot, Brooksville and Dedham. When not working on stories, he likes books, beer and the outdoors. [email protected]

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