'Suspended Worlds" / Curtains Without Borders

Derby-Line-Haskell-Opera-House-STANSTEAD, QUE/DERBY LINE, VT: Chris Hadsel will be giving a lecture at the Haskell Opera House on Friday, July 12 (7:00p.m.). This particular lecture explains the history behind the astonishing Vermont collection of public art in the form of painted theatrical scenery created between 1890 and 1940. These theater curtains (primarily muslin roll drops, not “velvet” drapery curtains) hang in town halls, grange halls and opera houses all over the state.

A hundred years ago, grand drapes and painted backdrops were the primary artistic feature in the cultural life of almost every village and town in northern New England. The “curtains” provided color and escapism in institutions that varied greatly in size and professional capacity. The scenery was permanently installed, available as set backdrops for traveling troupes, speakers, locally-produced variety shows and various societies and clubs.

In Vermont, three-quarters of the painted theater curtains were made for town halls, where politics, education, social occasions and entertainment all took place in one central building with a stage. Another twelve curtains are in Grange Halls and four are in opera houses that still have some of their original scenery.

During the last fifteen years, the Curtains Without Borders team of Vermont conservators and their assistants has stabilized 182 historic theater curtains in Vermont. Most of the curtains have been re-installed for use or display on their home stages, but in order to protect them from light, dirt and inadvertent mishandling, they are generally kept rolled up except for special occasions. About 15 have been put into storage because they are too fragile or worn to display, or their home stage cannot accommodate them.

‘SUSPENDED WORLDS’– a series of exhibits of photographs of historic stage scenery by Curtains Without Borders will be on display in the Library Reading Room July 9 through August 3 and can be viewed during regular library hours. This travelling exhibit features large photographs by Carolyn L. Bates, a Burlington photographer, information about some of the artists and the conservation process, and in most cases, an actual historic painted curtain. The photographs will be for sale through Curtains Without Borders. Free Admission ~ Donations Gratefully Accepted.

For more information about these and other curtains in New England: www.curtainswithoutborders.or


Photo by Carolyn L. Bates (Burlington, Vt)