Shea opens doors to controversy: open house Wednesday

Kids and adults dance to the Bill Shontz Young Person’s Show at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on  New Year’s Eve.
(Recorder/Paul Franz)

Kids and adults dance to the Bill Shontz Young Person’s Show at the Shea Theater in Turners Falls on New Year’s Eve. (Recorder/Paul Franz) Purchase photo reprints »

TURNERS FALLS — Responding to recent controversy over their role in the community, the directors of the Shea Theater will hold an open house Wednesday in the theater lobby.

The expiration of the nonprofit Shea Community Theater company’s 10-year lease for the town-owned 71 Avenue A building gave rise first to strong support for the governing board and then to strong opposition at successive meetings of the Montague Board of Selectmen last month.

Michael Glazier, president of the Shea Theater board of directors, said board members have full-time jobs in addition to running the theater, and had made a conscious decision to focus on running the theater over public relations but want the community to get involved.

“I do feel that we’ll have a good clean resolve to this, and hopefully the entire community can feel represented. To that end we’ve scheduled an open house for next Wednesday, Aug. 13, from 6:30 to 8:30 and the public will be able to ask whatever questions they want,” Glazier said. He said the board is also short almost half its 15 members, meets at 6:30 p.m. on the third Monday of every month in the lobby and has never during his time there rejected a request to join.

Glazier said he initially shared many of the concerns raised lately when he joined what he said was a very different board in 2010, but the Shea had already begun planning a new direction when the controversy broke.

Detractors at last week’s meeting of the Montague Board of Selectmen painted the theater as out of touch with and unresponsive to the interests of the local community, calling for more music, comedy and productions with an appeal beyond the family-oriented musicals and plays often presented by resident companies and renters.

The board held an annual planning meeting in March, Glazier said, the first since he has been on the board.

“A lot of the things that were discussed in there were a lot of the things that were brought up at that town selectboard meeting,” Glazier said. “We recognized that in 2013 we did a fraction of the music programming that we did the year before and we needed to bring that back.”

Glazier said the programming plan developed for the year calls for 24 weekends of live theater, 10 to 15 musical performances, at least two live comedy shows and as many community events as can be fit into the schedule.

Glazier said the board is working on a possible partnership with Northampton independent record label Signature Sounds — currently responsible for the annual Green River Festival in Greenfield — to bring in more music.

Glazier said the profit margins involved in bringing in an act big enough for the 300-seat venue are so narrow that the board risks sinking its budget on a miscalculation, with performance fees and special technical expenses. He added that a promoter is better equipped to line up musical performances.

“One bad event would literally be the nail in the coffin of a place like the Shea Theater,” he said.

The issue of the Upper Valley Music Festival, a multi-venue charitable music festival that moved from Turners Falls back to Greenfield this year as a result of a scheduling conflict with the Shea, was raised at last week’s meeting as a black mark against the board.

Glazier said he had spoken with the director before the festival but a date was never formally set, and the Shea offered to pay to set up a stage in one of the town parks as a replacement.

You can reach Chris Curtis at: or 413-772-0261, ext. 257

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