Town Hall Theater director leaving after 18 months


TOWN HALL THEATER Executive Director Mark Bradley is leaving the Middlebury organization after 18 months working to make it a more sustainable institution. He is shown here in October at an arts award ceremony with Anna Marie Gerwitz (left), former executive director of the Flynn Music Center, and Susan McClure, executive director of the Lake Champlain Maritime Museum in Ferrisburgh. Independent file photo/Steve James

MARK BRADLEY, WHO is bidding farewell to Town Hall Theater Feb. 21, did many things to help the organization, including painting the diner that THT bought last year for expansion space. Independent file photo/Steve James
People here really enjoy being involved in the arts, which isn’t necessarily the case wherever you go. — Mark Bradley

MIDDLEBURY — Town Hall Theater will soon have a new top administrator.

Executive Director Mark Bradley, who has guided THT during a significant recent organizational transition, is bidding the theater and the town a bittersweet farewell on Feb. 21.

“It’s been a good year and a half,” Bradley said. “It has been an intense period, helping Town Hall Theater transition from a ‘founding organization’ to a ‘sustaining organization.’”

Bradley began his job as THT’s top administrator in August 2018, after a stint as the Assistant Director of the Lebanon (N.H.) Opera House. He succeeded THT founder Doug Anderson, who transitioned into a newly created “artistic director” position.

A lot of Bradley’s most important accomplishments have involved internal organizational business, he said.

“There is still work to be done, of course, but at some point you have to trust that the organization will move forward,” he said. “It’ll be good to pass the torch.”

On Wednesday, THT board chair Benj Deppman announced Lisa Mitchell, co-founder of the arts organization Middlebury UndergrounD, or MUD, will be taking that torch. She will begin her new job as general manager of Town Hall Theater on Feb. 17. The Independent will profile Mitchell and her new position in a future edition.

LOOKING BACK

“Getting an organization ready for change is itself a big change,” Bradley said, thinking back over the last 18 months. “For 15 years, the organization operated in basically the same way, so some things needed more loosening up than others.”

In addition to developing and clarifying business practices for the theater, Bradley has also enjoyed focusing on building larger audiences for live music and dance.

“We can’t fit much more into our calendar,” he said. “We’re nearly booked up for the rest of the year.”

Bradley pointed to the hotly anticipated appearance of singer-songwriter trio Sweet Remains on Feb. 14, a show that will almost certainly sell out, and the Vermont Dance Alliance annual gala on April 24–25, which Bradley said THT is “hugely honored” to host this year.

“Attendance at these kinds of events can sometimes be uneven, so there’s been a need to build up an audience for them,” Bradley said. “It’s been really exciting to watch that happen.”

BITTERSWEET

“It’s been a real privilege to be welcomed into this community,” he said. “People here really enjoy being involved in the arts, which isn’t necessarily the case wherever you go.”

In addition to the “forever friends” he’s made during his tenure, and playing clarinet with the local music group MiddWinds, Bradley says he’ll miss playing darts in the Tuesday night dart league at Notte.

“And that’s something you can definitely quote me on,” he said with a laugh.

But this job wasn’t a “forever job.”

“With a transitional leadership position, longevity can’t be one of the goals,” he said. His departure, he added, has been “about as amicable as a departure can get.”

The next phase of Bradley’s career is still coming into focus, he said, but he’s pretty certain it will be arts-related. Most likely he’ll land somewhere in New England or New York.

Wherever he goes, he’ll be taking Middlebury with him.

“So much has happened and I have learned so much while I’ve been here,” he said. “I will be drawing on this experience for the rest of my life.”

LOOKING AHEAD

“Town Hall Theater has been in good hands and will continue to be in good hands,” Deppman said. “Doug is still here, the staff will remain the same, and we’re optimistic about the future.”

Bradley echoed Deppman’s sentiment, adding that THT is preparing for the Middlebury downtown bridge replacement project this summer.

“We will not be closing!” he said.

The Opera Company of Middlebury is moving their June production to Middlebury College. In its place, a special multimedia project called “If I Say Bee” will be presented by Courageous Stage.

The Young Company’s regularly programmed summer camps and productions will resume in July as normally planned, as will the usual residencies in August with the Language Schools and the Middlebury New Filmmakers Festival.

“Despite initial concerns,” Bradley said, “we felt it was important to remain active and present as part of our commitment to downtown.”

Reach Christopher Ross at christopherr@addisonindependent.com.

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