Skip navigation

Flynn Center Blog

Getting Kids off the Sidelines through the Performing Arts

by Susanna Olson, Flynn Teaching Artist

Susanna Olson has been affiliated with the Flynn Center as a teaching artist since 1996.


When I was eight years old, I attended my first ever baseball game at Fenway Park in Boston. I remember the energy of the crowd, the green of the field, and the warmth of the sun. I remember my mother sitting next to me, kindly pointing out the players and explaining the rules of the game. It was a happy day. Still, looking back on that moment, forty years later, I see that it could have been more. I had never tried to play the game myself, never tried to catch  a baseball with a glove or hit a ball with a bat, so I could not appreciate the players’ skill, teamwork, or athleticism.  I remained a passive spectator when I could have been an engaged fan.

I bring this perspective with me every time I visit a school to teach a student matinee companion workshop. For this reason, I’m passionate about the work that goes into preparing Vermont’s children to experience a live performance.

School teachers who make Flynn student matinee reservations have the opportunity to book a hands-on workshop in their classroom. These workshops are a unique experience—each one is tailored to the individual performance and is designed to invite students into a deeper experience of that show.

Consistently, the workshops include a chance for students to imagine what it might feel like to be a performer in the show they will see. Supported by the Flynn’s Words Come Alive arts integration program, hands-on drama and dance exercises guide students through the process of making creative choices with their bodies, voices, and imaginations. They pretend that their classroom is the Flynn stage, and they are performers on it.

Days later, when they come to the Flynn, the students are excited. They watch the show with exceptional focus, comparing their own creative choices with those being made on stage, all while appreciating the skill and artistry of the professionals.

Teaching students across the state requires an adventurous spirit, a high standard of excellence, and a fair share of stamina. But I love the work and believe in it—now more than ever. I believe in it as a formative learning experience, because I see so many Vermont schoolchildren whose first exposure to live performing arts is through a field trip to the Flynn. It is a source of hope for humanity, because I see engagement in the arts as an antidote to pervasive technological trends away from community and toward isolation. Finally, it’s an investment in our shared future as a society, because I see today’s attentive student matinee audiences as tomorrow’s arts creators and patrons.

This satisfaction culminates on matinee days, when I greet all my companion workshop students in the lobby. Once in a while, as I give them sporting high-fives on their way into the theater, I recall my eight-year-old self at Fenway—I grin, look at the young rookies striding past me, and think, “Play ball!”


Posted in Education | Tagged , , , , | Leave a comment

Heels Are Not Shoes, They Are Costume

by Michelle Watters, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Transitions  . . . in FlynnSpace on November 20, 2015. 

Apparently I am psychic. My preview of “Transitions” had so many similarities to the actual “Transitions” I had to look over my shoulder to make sure the woman who had been hacking at the back of my head for the entire performance was not really a ghost with tuberculosis trying to tell me the future. Being psychic is tough business. How did I know ahead of time that there would be interpretive dance? I don’t know. The fact that there was such a striking similarity to an episode of The Golden Girls? So weird.

Well there is one thing I didn’t expect and that was that I would have so much fun. This was the first time I have seen a performance in the FlynnSpace. It has a dark basement vibe. It is small, intimate and a cross between beatnik poetry reading and 1970s Dad’s basement. When I first sat down in the second row I couldn’t help thinking I am way too close. I have issues with intimacy and being on the same level and less than two feet away from everything got me a little panicky. I felt as if I was in someone’s living room watching them, a sneaky voyeur.

I don’t want to tell all in this review mainly because there are two more performances yet to come and part of the fun of being in the audience was watching each story unfold. There was a slow suspense involved much like the turning of a page in a novel and I don’t want to spoil it for the people who have yet to take their turn in the audience. So I’m going to give you a little bit of the experience but not of all it.

Dark basement, drink in hand, six acts/stories. Are you ready? Okay. Cello and accordion music, silence, lights, scene opens on a couch, two chairs and a table, a doorway. The floor and table is covered with boxes. First story is about two sisters coming together for the first time after their mother’s funeral to sort her stuff. Second story two lovers with a big age gap argue about what they meant to each other. There were so many great one liners in this particular story I could not remember them all but I will tell you this: I chose the title of this review after my favorite one. Third story is a conversation between a documentarian and a woman getting ready to go to jail. Fourth story Mormon cult escapees with secrets. Fifth story I really don’t want to tell you anything about this so you can see it for yourself (hint). It is the one with interpretive dancing (!) and it made me smile in my soul, for real. Sixth story if you have seen even one episode of The Golden Girls this will feel familiar to you.

Maybe it was the intimate feel of the room or the lighting but this was definitely not a theater experience I have ever had before. It wasn’t flawless. Sometimes the lines were almost poetic and other times the silence went on for way too long and I found I had to make my own interpretations, but it was different and refreshing. I really loved the fact that it was only women performing and I don’t really know why; maybe it was comforting.

So get off the couch and your iPhone, gather some friends and head down to a dark hole to watch people who are creative and really love theater. As a bonus they like to swear as much as I do. This is isn’t your Dad’s basement so you won’t have to sneak sips off weird liquor nobody drinks like vermouth. Afterwards you can try to remember which episode of The Golden Girls that last story was most like and if the performers were really drinking all that red wine or just pretending.

Posted in Burlington Writers Workshop, FlynnSpace | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Fund an Artist and Make an Impact


Artists are the lifeblood of the Flynn, serving as catalysts for creativity, self-expression, community building, and inspiration. Artists bring community members together for meaningful discussion and exploration of ideas; in schools, our teaching artists tap into students’ creativity as they learn core subjects through theater, dance, and music; and young artists are nurtured to develop creative expression through the Flynn’s performing arts classes.

Please consider making a gift today to Fund an Artist.

Artists Develop New Works

The Flynn co-commissions new works by national artists, which often include residencies during their time in Vermont. This year, we’re proud to help commission a new composition from Maria Schneider, who performs with her orchestra on April 20. Schneider is one of America’s leading composers and a three-time Grammy winner. While here, she will participate in a panel about intellectual property rights with members of the artistic, legal, business, and college community. Student musicians in the UVM big band have a unique opportunity to work directly with Schneider. A gift of $500 helps toward our $5,000 commissioning support for new work.

Supporting Local Artists

We work closely with area artists to support their creativity. This fall, Kelly Jane Thomas, Jena Necrason, and Kim Jordan created and performed a new theater piece addressing the issue of criminal justice reform; jazz saxophonist Brian McCarthy created a new suite exploring songs of the American Civil War; and director Seth Jarvis collaborated with female theater artists to devise a piece about upheavals and change. A gift of $500 supports a local artist to develop new work.

Regional Artists Exhibition Support

The Flynn’s Amy E. Tarrant Gallery focuses on the exhibition of regional artists. The work of photographer Matthew Thorsen is on view now through February 26; then in June, a selection from G.R.A.C.E. Gallery (Grass Roots Art and Community Effort) in
Hardwick, Vermont is featured. A gift of $750 helps underwrite an artist’s exhibition.

Young Artist Scholarships

Making the arts accessible is crucial to the Flynn’s mission. Scholarships open doors for young students to explore their creativity and inspire them toward excellence. Each season, the Flynn provides over $16,000 in scholarship support. $250 provides scholarships for artists to take dance, theater, or music classes.

Teaching Artists transform classroom learning

Artists provide many access points for experiencing the arts. Teaching artists provide over 1,000 hours of in-school workshops each season, often to deepen the experience of a Student Matinee performance, or integrate the arts into daily curriculum. Students and teachers experience firsthand the power of the arts in their classrooms, their schools, and their lives. Our teaching artists are passionate about unleashing joy and creativity into teaching and learning in Vermont schools. $100 pays for a teaching artist to teach an in-school workshop.

The Flynn works with over 70 teaching artists every season. To ensure increasing skills, high-quality teaching, and to invest in teaching artists’ powerful potential, we are committed to providing professional development opportunities that increase the impact of the work that our teaching artists do and reflect the evolving needs of the community we serve. $1,000 provides professional development opportunities for all of the Flynn’s teaching artists.

Artists are at the heart of what the Flynn does— the more opportunities we create for them, the better our community becomes.

Please consider a year-end gift to Fund an Artist. If you have any questions, contact Gina Haddock at 802-652-4533 or rhaddock [AT], or visit

Posted in Development, Uncategorized | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

It’s A Family Affair: Cooder-White-Skaggs Bring That Old-Time Religion to the Flynn

by Brett Sigurdson, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Cooder-White-Skaggs at the Flynn Center on November 16, 2015.

Photo courtesy of Ricky Skaggs.

As I sat in the old, elegant Flynn MainStage waiting for Cooder-White-Skaggs to start, I couldn’t help but think of Paris. I had listened to the Eagles of Death Metal on my drive to Burlington, and the MainStage evoked the old-world theater charms I’d seen in pictures of the Bataclan, where so many lost their lives two days before. I felt odd sitting in the Flynn, apprehensive. It wasn’t that I was expecting anything ominous to happen on this night, yet something still felt unsettling. A music venue is always a place I’ve felt safe, a place where I’ve forgotten about the world outside for 90 minutes. I couldn’t stop thinking about how Friday’s violence transgressed the sanctity of the stage and the holiness of the live music experience.  The real troubles of the real world seemed too much for me to put aside.

Maybe I was the only one with such heavy thoughts. The man next to me raved to his partner about someone playing the theremin on a record. Behind me, a couple wondered aloud whether the group was “Skaggs-Cooder-White” or “Cooder-Skaggs-White.” When the music began moments later, it was clear the answer to that question was arbitrary—as was everything else—as the honey-sweet harmonies of Ricky Skaggs, Sharon White, and Ry Cooder wrapped around the lyrics of the Louvin Brothers’ “The Family Who Prays.” The lyrics, surprisingly appropriate, captured my woe and comforted it in one verse.

Wars and tornadoes are taking our loved ones
Leaving us tearful with sad aching hearts
But we shall join them over the river
Where the family who prays never shall part

The opening number also made this much clear: Cooder-White-Skaggs isn’t about individual musicians—it’s a family affair. Skaggs and White have been married for 34 years, and they were joined on stage by Buck White and Sheryl White, who, together with Sharon, form the excellent trio The Whites. Ry Cooder’s son, Joachim, backed the band on drums. The only one on stage not related to another was bassist Mark Fain, though he’s played with Skaggs in Kentucky Thunder for 17 years. That’s longer than most rock and roll marriages.

The family vibe infused the setlist, too. Nearly all of the songs were from the ageless old-time country, gospel, and bluegrass catalog (“Everything on stage is pre-1965, save for these two,” joked Skaggs, pointing to the junior Cooder and Frain), which meant lots of songs about looking for salvation through love and Jesus.

The tight picking’ and singin’ conveyed an atmosphere of intimacy, of familiar voices long accustomed to dancing together. The music danced, too. On occasion it burned. On the band’s third song, Merle Travis’s “Sweet Temptation,” Buck White broke out of the bombastic chorus with a barrelhouse piano solo that weaved into Cooder’s country-slide licks and Skaggs’s lighting fiddle runs. The group followed a similar recipe on its take of Jimmy Martin’s rollicking “Hold Whatcha Got,” in which everyone took extended, rousing solos. My notes for this song read simply, “Wow. Ridiculous.”

By the end of the show, the camaraderie on stage and pure musicianship made me feel the spirit—not so much the religious fervor in so much of the songs but something of the exhilaration that comes with it.

God bless Ry Cooder, I thought, this musical chameleon who can move from playing boogie-country guitar on songs like the Belmore Brothers’ “Pan-American Boogie” to banjo on Hank Williams’ “Where the Soul of a Man Never Dies” to electric bouzouki on Blind Alfred Reed’s “You Must Unload.” And God bless Ricky Skaggs, the silver-haired lion of the mandolin, fiddle, and cherry-red guitar with the casual virtuosity and clarion tenor. And God bless the White sisters and patriarch Buck, who, at 84, played barrelhouse piano with dexterity and a constant smile. The trio took center stage for one song, bringing new life to their take on Kitty Wells’s “Making Believe.”

The group’s final song, Flat and Scruggs’s “Reunion in Heaven,” made me a believer in the concert experience again. Sung in four-part harmony, Cooder, Skaggs, and Sharon and Sheryl White captured the lament of loss and celebration of reunion after death.

No crepes on the door in that beautiful city
No sorrow or pain never more over there
But a body we’ll have in the Saviour’s own likeness
And a mansion Jesus said he would go to prepare

It occurred to me when I heard these words that I hadn’t thought about Paris or anything else since the concert began. The power of music washed over me, the power of voices singing together for some higher purpose. Cooder-White-Skaggs showed the capacity of music to heal, if only for a time.

“I think I discovered Jesus,” exclaimed the theremin guy next to me as the band left the stage. I knew what he meant.

Posted in Burlington Writers Workshop, MainStage | Tagged , , , , | 1 Comment

Improvised Shakespeare Company Review

by Josh MacDonald, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Improvised Shakespeare Company in FlynnSpace on November 12-14, 2015.

The Improvised Shakespeare Company performed a series of shows in FlynnSpace, November 12 through 14. These performances had very few points in common: besides being sold out, each show borrowed heavily from the style, themes, and linguistic stylings of Shakespeare’s plays; each featured the talented Brendan Dowling, Asher Perlman, and Steve Waltien, from the award-winning Chicago-Based troupe; and each night’s play was invented on the spot based on suggestions from the audience.

Apart from that, every performance was unique. Anything I can write about the Thursday night performance I attended may or may not apply to any other performance. Such is the nature (and the fun) of improv.

For Thursday night’s show, a young man in the audience offered the title Transformers of the Caribbean. There is perhaps a certain appropriateness to it, considering Shakespeare was a very popular writer of the blockbusters of his time. In any case, the performers embraced the idea. Their prologue put it into a Seventeenth-Century context, describing how “a ship transforms into a wreck,” and they were off and running.

For the next hour and a half the three performers created the story of the Transformers of the Caribbean, which turned out to be a kind of mash-up of The Tempest and A Midsummer Night’s Dream told in rhyming couplets.

It begins with two young Italian gentlemen, Antonio and Claudio, shipwrecked on a Caribbean island. Antonio, it turns out, is relieved that he won’t have to return home to marry his fiancée Olivia (whom he doesn’t love), while Claudio is upset that he will never again see Olivia’s sister Bianca (whom he does love.)

Meanwhile the island’s resident mischievous fairies, Thistlebottom and Bramblebottom, overhear the young men’s conversation and decide to magically disguise themselves as the two women. “Indeed we are more than meets the eye,” the fairies say, in one of many references to the Transformers franchise peppered throughout the show.

These fairies-disguised-as-women set out to tease the men, but find that, in their human guise, they are subject to human emotions and begin to fall in love with their victims (which I think was a classic Star Trek plot rather than Shakespeare, but hey – it works).

Then there’s the wizard Lorenzo, exiled to the island with his young and innocent daughter Veronica. It turns out he needs the blood of these castaways in order to get out of his exile, but Veronica has fallen in love with Antonio and insists on preserving his life.

And for good measure, they throw in a pair of Sirens and Henry the Unfortunate Englishman in a subplot that ultimately doesn’t go anywhere. They toy with the idea that the drowned Englishman might help Lorenzo’s cause without sacrificing Veronica’s love, but the story progresses in other directions and Henry is not needed in the end. Such is the way of improv (and of life) – it’s good to keep a few options open.

The three performers deftly juggle these nine roles right up to the end where, in classic Shakespearean fashion, all the characters are brought together and the actors have to jump back and forth, playing several roles at once. The malevolent fairies are banished to the far side of the island (at Michael’s Bay), the young lovers get married, and everyone lives happily ever after. Except poor Henry, sacrificed as a discarded plot device.

Posted in Burlington Writers Workshop, FlynnSpace | Tagged , | Leave a comment

Reflections on Hidden Blueprints

by Jeremy MacKenzie

Jeremy MacKenzie is a Champlain College student who turned to his art—wood scrollwork—after being incarcerated at the Lee Adjustment Center in Beattyville, Kentucky, a private corporate facility run by Corrections Corp. of America, where inmates rioted and set fire to the facility in 2004. While in prison, serving a total of eight years for bank robbery and drug trafficking, MacKenzie drew the “blueprints” for the intricate carvings he planned to create upon his release. These drawings, comprised of many sheets of paper taped together, had to be kept secret or they would have been confiscated. He successfully kept the drawings hidden for years and began cutting his scrollwork following his release. MacKenzie documented his progress as he worked, which was done in a sweltering attic. See his exhibition Hidden Blueprints in the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery through November 28.

Jeremy Portrait III adj

I am going to take a moment to reflect on these past months working with the Flynn Center, and the journey that led to it. I planned and anticipated the art show in the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery for about a year, but in reality, Hidden Blueprints was the climax of over a decade of work. The collection of artwork didn’t even start as a collection at all. It started very undirected, as a group of blueprints hidden in my legal work that expressed something about my experiences while in a corporate prison in Kentucky. It wasn’t until years later in my final sentence that the designing became more directed and focused, and began to develop into an actual collection with purpose. Many other doors have opened since the showing, and a lot of other opportunities have presented themselves as a result of it. Fortunately I didn’t wait that whole decade for art shows to begin, or for opportunities to present themselves. I guess that is what was important in all of this: I didn’t wait, or give up even when I was in a place where opportunity was not presenting itself at all (in a prison cell). I just kept pursuing what mattered to me and expressing it in ways that disregarded the limitations of my situation.

I remember the beginning of the end came one day when I opened up a National Geographic magazine. In it I found an article about the monks of Mount Athos. They were a group of monks who chose to live in a mountain monastery in Greece, completely detached from society. There were no women, no parties, no dance halls or band performances. There was stone and seclusion. These guys basically spent their time locked up, writing and reading, praying or working on art. I remember thinking: “Are you kidding me? These guys are basically choosing to live in prison?” But then I had a really big realization: These guys are not choosing to live in a prison, they are choosing to live how they want to live. They are building their ethos. And I could do the same. I could use what time I had left to my advantage.

This was important because during that time I had experienced a series of events that led me to completely stop identifying with my former life. I was no longer identifying with prison at all, or the culture that led me there, or wanted me to stay. Every bullshit thing I had been taught by drug traffickers as an adolescent had come crashing down during my final sentence, and all I knew at that time was that nothing I knew before was any good. Something had to change. So when I read that article about the monks of Mount Athos, I knew that I had a lesson to take from that. It wasn’t a lesson about religion (I am not a religious person at all). It was a lesson about time, and discipline and the building of ethos. It was a lesson on how I could subtly (or not so subtly) guide my own fate, a little bit at a time.

That was really when I began building my own life, even before I had a free one to claim. At the time I got a job as a prison movie projectionist, and began studying screenwriting as my scripture, and began designing my own world in scrollwork blueprints. If I didn’t have a tangible world to claim, I would build my own. And that world was in the blueprints. I was determined to save them and protect them and never let them be taken from me. They were the blueprints for my life. The blueprints and screenwriting were like seeds that I was planting in my garden, which would one day grow, even if it was years later. And those seed did grow…

This summer those seeds finally bore fruit… The first gallery showing has now happened and is now coming to a close with more in sight. During the show at the Flynn I had my first screenwriting fellowship to plan the path into my first feature length movie, and had a separate screenplay win Gold in the PAGE International Screenwriting Awards in Los Angeles. During the show at the Amy E. Tarrant Gallery a huge amount of people came to see the art collection, and it made it much easier to connect with people and have meaningful conversations rather than trying to hide anything meaningful I have to say which might be connected to my own complicated past (just like the collections of blueprints I hid in a prison). And that has been very freeing. John Killacky and Nancy Abbott-Hourigan were a pleasure to work with, and made the Flynn feel like home to me.

Posted in Amy E. Tarrant Gallery | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Caswell Blogs about Cookies

by Chris Caswell

Chris Caswell is a Burlington theater artist that is participating in the collaborative theater piece Transitions . . . in FlynnSpace on November 20-22, 2015. Get tickets at

It is a strange thing to “complete” a short play. It’s a bit like the exquisite corpse drawing game where one person draws the top half of a creature, folds the paper, and provides a few guidelines for the next artist to complete the bottom. Only, with Transitions…, instead of seeing just a hint of the previous picture, we can see the all of it. I wanted to be true to all of the clues that Seth provided in his six pages of Cookies. We know that these women have broken away from some religion that penetrated their lives, we know they are aunt and niece (or at least call each other that), we know that the aunt left first and is “checking on” the niece.

I asked my fabulous actors — Tracey Girdich and Hannah Wall — to approach the script many different ways, exploring their character’s relationships, what they need from each other, what they’re hiding, and what is at stake for both of them. These suggestions mainly came from the feedback forms that our audience filled out after the initial reading (thank you, audience!) Both actresses have lovely, mysterious qualities that became especially riveting given one scenario in particular. It was clear to all of us which direction held the most drama.

After that pass through of the script, we were all in agreement about what the story “wanted to be”. I asked Tracey and Hannah if they desired to help write the rest of the play; although, I must admit I was secretly hoping they didn’t, because I had no idea how to facilitate that collaboration (sorry guys, I’m sure we would have come up with something). Luckily, given schedules and time constraints, we agreed that I would take our ideas away and “finish” the script. I wrote six more pages around Seth’s six — some at the beginning, some at the end, and some in between. While I wish there was a bit more time to make tweaks to my additions, at this point, it’s more important that my actors have a finished script to memorize and bring to life. Hope you enjoy Cookies!

Posted in FlynnSpace, Uncategorized | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Random Associations on Transitions

by Michelle Watters, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Transitions . . ., a Flynn Center commission, in FlynnSpace on November 20-22, 2015. Get tickets at

transitions-door-blue copy

When I think of transitions and women the obvious – marriage, pregnancy, love, death, career, and divorce – come to mind. I am not sure what experimental theater is but an image of people in black leotards doing interpretive dance to stark music is the first thing I imagine. Or perhaps a spotlight on the stage where someone is sitting in a chair in silhouette and starts shouting out words randomly. I took an experimental dance class in college where I was told to be an amoeba. Somehow I failed at this. So each class the teacher sensed my growing ambivalence and singled me out to dance as if I were “wind blowing through a winter tree” or some other such nonsense.

I chose to do a preview on Transitions because I was curious about it.  A play about fourteen women in different transitions in their lives written by a local male playwright (Seth Jarvis) that promises fancy sounding lighting called “luminaries”. Intriguing, right?

I grew up watching films where the main characters were women going through big changes that made them re-evaluate who they were:

The 1978 classic An Unmarried Woman where Jill Clayburgh’s character Emily finds out her husband is cheating on her with a younger woman and divorces him only to find solace in a burly artist with an accent.

Fast Times At Ridgemont High, which I feel needs no introduction but for the sake of nostalgia, is a coming of age story revolving around a freshman named Stacy, played by Jennifer Jason Leigh, who throughout the film experiences high school, sex, abortion, and love all for the first time unflinchingly. I first watched it when I was fifteen and I felt like it had been made just for me.

Another one of my favorites, one that deals with addiction, is When A Man Loves A Woman in which Meg Ryan plays Alice an alcoholic mother and wife. The scene where she drinks a bottle of rubbing alcohol still horrifies me to this day but what most touched me about the film was how she went into rehab only to come out not understanding how to be this new person in her old life.

All of these films have a supporting cast of characters, but ultimately they center on one woman. So I am very curious as to how Transitions . . . will manage to focus on fourteen women all going through various changes in their lives in just seven scenarios. I can’t quite imagine it or when I do random things pop into my mind like an episode of Golden Girls or actors in silhouette moving like ameobas across the stage.  My imagination runs away with me.

Come away with me to find out what Transitions . . . is all about. Friday, November 20 at 8 pm.

Posted in Burlington Writers Workshop, FlynnSpace | Tagged , , | Leave a comment

Cooder-White-Skaggs Show Promises Musical Adventure

by Brett Sigurdson, Burlington Writers Workshop

Preview of Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Ricky Skaggs on the MainStage on Monday, November 16. Get tickets at

What on the surface could seem like an eyebrow-raising grouping makes sense when one considers the careers of Ry Cooder, Sharon White, and Ricky Skaggs. The trio, who will appear as Cooder White Skaggs at the Flynn on Monday, November 16, have each sought unique collaborations throughout their successful, adventurous careers.

Take Cooder, a chameleon-like virtuoso I’ve always wanted to see in concert. From the 60s rock of Rising Sons—a band that also featured Taj Mahal—to albums of Tex Mex, Indian raga and Cuban bolero, Cooder has proven himself a vital musical expeditionary. He also won praise, and a Grammy, for his work on the soundtrack and accompanying film Buena Vista Social Club.

Or Skaggs, the sugar-voiced country and gospel singer and mandolin picker who has played with everyone from Emmylou Harris to Jack White to Barry Gibb of the Bee Gees (!). He even played a set with Vermont’s own Phish (one can’t help but wish Trey and the boys join Skaggs and company for a rendition of “Uncle Pen.”)

His most recent album is Hearts Like Ours (2014), an album of love songs recorded with Sharon White, his wife of 34 years.

Sharon is a member of the legendary family band The Whites, which also feature her sister Cheryl and father Buck, both of whom will join Cooder White Skaggs on stage at the Flynn. (Joachim Cooder [drums] and Mark Fain [bass] will round out the band). Sharon is no stranger to interesting collaborations either: The Whites appear on Christmas Times A-Comin’, an album recorded by the cast of the TV series In the Heat of the Night (!!).

My excitement for the show seems trumped by the members of the project themselves, who are enthusiastic about this latest collaboration in their storied careers.

“Getting to work with Ry Cooder has been a dream of mine for a long time,” notes Skaggs. “He is a world-class musician. We met at a Grammy Awards show many years ago and thought it would be a blast to do something together sometime, and now we’re getting to create new sounds around old music. But the best part is getting to share the stage every night with my wife and sweetheart Sharon White. My heart is full!”

After hearing a few performances online, I can say Cooder, White, and Skaggs’ passion for this collaboration will spread to the audience from the Flynn stage, likely leaving the crowd’s collective heart just as full.

Posted in Burlington Writers Workshop, MainStage | Tagged , , , | Leave a comment

“Intersections” Review

by Lauren J. Sanders, Burlington Writers Workshop

Review of Intersections in FlynnSpace on November 3, 2015.

The FlynnSpace, if you’ve ever been there or know its history, used to be a bar and is located in a basement. It is set up with wooden tiers and plastic chairs, making it feel very much like a lecture hall or some assembly you would attend in school. This setting turned out to be absolutely perfect for Intersections, because we were indeed there to learn something. Upon sitting down there were letters on our seats that I didn’t get a chance to read until after the show, which actually made the point that much clearer. It was a letter from a child to their mother, opening with: “When are you coming home? Why do you like being there more than you like being with me?”

If you didn’t already know, our prison system is corrupt. Kim, Jena, and Kelly do a wonderful job of literally outlining those facts by using the chalkboard on the wall and writing the headlines of every piece so the audience can visually remember what the stories are about. You can tell this trio is comprised of at least one teacher, because their method worked.

Throughout the hour and a half show we are guided through four headlines: Outside Looking In, Broken System, Behind the Face, and Restoration. The opening act is of a mother whose son is convicted of drug charges and sentenced to 18 years in prison. Her life completely revolves around him and taking the time out to see him. Two more stories are very similar and immediately you feel for these people because it is far too easy to relate.

In the past 40 years the prison population has increased 500%, which makes it so almost everyone knows someone who has served time. More statistics like this are revealed throughout the show, but I found this one to have the most impact. We later hear from a Correctional Officer, who despite being well qualified for a position is put in one of the most volatile and dangerous jobs, one that has a 40% higher suicide rate than all other jobs in the country combined. Not only do you sympathize with the inmates now, you also feel for the people directly hired by the prison itself.

During the performance you hear headline after headline of more and more horror stories about our prison system. Restoration may not even be possible at this point. So why do Kim, Jena, and Kelly make the show? Why are they so invested? The audience finds out through each of their own personal stories incorporated into the show. The last story we hear is from Kim. It is a tragic retelling of how her mother was murdered by a gang member in California 14 years ago. Somehow Kim still had sympathy for her mother’s killer. She wondered what led him to that lifestyle and why there weren’t more support systems for him. I think it is so beautiful and so strong that she can be considerate of someone who changed her life and took her mother away.

All in all Intersections was eye opening, funny at times, and extremely informative. I learned not only about the prison system in general, but also the way things work here in Vermont. These women did a wonderful job of answering any questions that might have arose and expressing it in a way that was memorable. Kudos to them, for making me think outside the box on a Tuesday night.


Posted in Burlington Writers Workshop, FlynnSpace | Tagged , , , | 1 Comment

The Flynn Center for the Performing Arts seeks to comply with the web site accessibility standards of the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA). Our web site represents a good-faith effort to comply with those standards.

Vermont website design, graphic design, and web hosting provided by Vermont Design Works

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts

Flynn Center for the Performing Arts
153 Main Street, Burlington, Vermont 05401
Tickets: 802-863-5966, voice/relay calls welcome
Administrative Offices: 802-652-4500 (P) 802-863-8788 (F)