- Big Picture Theater & Café in Waitsfield
Since its inception in 1985, Warren-based Phantom Theater has been a summer-only staple in the Mad River Valley, as fleeting and elusive as its name suggests. That's about to change: The performing arts company will now host events throughout the year after finding a winter venue at Big Picture Theater & Café in Waitsfield.
Known for its avant-garde style, Phantom brings unconventional theater, music and dance to the valley. The company previously limited its performances to July and August due to its unheated venue, Edgcomb Barn in Warren. But now, artistic director Tracy Martin said she hopes winter performances will attract new audiences.
“Usually we just close up end of August, and no one sees us again until after July 4,” she said. She hopes the new location will “keep us on people's minds.”
The partnership will also benefit Big Picture Theater & Café, which owner Claudia Becker said is still bouncing back from COVID-19 shutdowns. The 90-seat theater used to host the MountainTop Film Festival and serve three meals a day. Now, the film festival is defunct, and the café only serves dinner.
“We kind of miss being the focal point of some of the cultural and community-oriented events that happen here in the Mad River Valley,” said Becker, who joined Phantom Theater’s board of directors last year. “The idea of collaboration … felt like a lovely joining of forces.”
Kicking off the partnership will be the one-woman show What’s His Name, written and performed by Warren resident Keryn Nightingale. Presented on October 27, the show is both a memoir and a new spin on an old fairy tale.
Future events might include a silent movie night accompanied by live piano, an open-mic storytelling night and a comedy show, Becker said.
Martin described Phantom’s art as not “afraid to make the audience uncomfortable.” The company focuses on original works and allows artists to experiment with unconventional narrative structure, she said. Phantom’s 2023 summer program included Play Dead, a contemporary circus arts performance about a series of frightening events in a house, and Revenge of the Dummy, a play about a ventriloquist trying to break with his dominating puppet.
Martin added that she and Becker are “kindred spirits” who share an interest in art that’s “funky” or “offbeat.” She hopes the partnership will help Phantom Theater continue to expand.
“We're very dedicated to community and presenting things that bring people together,” Martin said. “There's nothing like sharing in a live performance."
What's His Name, a one-woman show by Keryn Nightingale, presented by Phantom Theater: Friday, October 27, 7:30 p.m., at Big Picture Theater & Café in Waitsfield. $20. nightingaleproductionsvt.com