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Stowe Theatre Guild Keeps Rising From the Fire

By Jake Levin

Intimate, comfortable and technologically current. That's how Stowe Theatre Guild board member Kim Anetsberger describes the Stowe, Vt. center of performing arts. Now in its 23rd season of operation, the Stowe Theatre Guild continues to chug along thanks to a string of never ending improvements to ensure the space lives up to its legacy.

Of course, in order to learn the whole story of the theater, you must travel back in time to the 1950s. Then known as the Stowe Playhouse, the theater welcomed in future big name stars such as Morgan Freeman and Meryl Streep throughout its first incarnation under various names until a fire destroyed the building in March 1994.

Undeterred, the Stowe Theatre Guild rose from the ashes under a new name, venue and challenge. But nearly a quarter century later, the challenge continues to be met with an array of summer musicals, comedies and dramas.

"The Guild is honored to continue entertaining thousands of local residents and visitors each season in this historic space and keeping summer theater alive in Stowe," the Guild's program says.

Stowe Theatre Guild is a volunteer theater with a 501© (3) nonprofit status. As such, the Guild donates to other local nonprofits on top of awarding annual scholarships to students for the pursuit of their education. Forty-four have been awarded in the Guild's history, with actors such as Paul Miller and Liana Hunt making it to Broadway and Ross Francis appearing in several TV shows.

Anetsberger is also chair of the Community Affairs Committee, which oversees the ways in which Stowe Theatre Guild gives back to the community. On top of the scholarships given out to students, sets of season tickets are awarded to nonprofits and other businesses within the community. Every show put on pertains to the community in some way, shape or form.

"Every show that we put on in our season has what we call a community tie-in. This is an organization that each show pairs with to highlight their cause during the run of the show," Anetsberger said. "For example, Chicago has paired up with the Clarina Howard Nichols Center, and nonprofit devoted to helping women who are victims of sexual or domestic violence. If you came to see Chicago, you'd have seen a booth set up for them with pamphlets and a donation box. We will have different partners for each show."

It's not uncommon for the Stowe Theatre Guild to be seen in local parades, or performing in-character readings at local libraries.

Anetsberger acted in her first play with Stowe Theatre Guild after moving to Vermont from California seven years ago in an effort to make new friends in her new home. Years later, after acting in one of many more plays with the guild, board members approached her to join the board.

"I didn't know anyone here and now I have a wonderful family of friends that I have met through shows," Anetsberger said. "Being on the board has allowed me to give back to the community that I now call family. I really love being on stage, singing, dancing, the thrill of a live performance, but what I really love is the bonds I make with fellow actors. So it feels really good to know that behind the scenes, I work with an amazing group of people who love theatre so much that they spend countless hours not only preparing and working to create a good season, but working to keep the theater in a great condition and working to keep us STG alive and relevant."

To see what's up next at the Stowe Theatre Guild, check out its website, www.stowetheatre.com.

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