Orpheum Launches New Cultural Council For Theater, Community

By: Jennifer Sexton-Riley

Topics: Arts

Photographer Kim Rodriques.  COURTESY PHOTO

The Chatham Orpheum Theater and an enthusiastic group of local leaders in all areas of the arts have come together virtually to create a new advisory group.

The Orpheum Cultural Council will guide the theater's programming and foster an even more comprehensive approach to cultural events and issues in the community, including the expansion of event offerings throughout the entire year and a more focused outreach to children and the community at large. The OCC has set its sights on June to hold a series of three free informational talks, to coincide with the possible reopening of the Orpheum Theater, depending on state COVID-19 restrictions.

Zoom meetings are being held to lay down the groundwork for what Chatham Orpheum Executive Director Kevin McLain envisions as a way to break down barriers, democratize access to cultural offerings and both inspire and engage the community year-round.

The unwelcome arrival of COVID-19 inflicted an enforced pause on all of us, as businesses and venues of all sorts were forced to close. McLain used this socially distanced year to not only establish a valuable resource for the housebound in the form of the Chatham Orpheum Virtual Screening Room, but also to take a deep dive into the priorities of the Chatham Orpheum, analyzing the feedback from the community of exactly what it is about the community theater that everyone misses so much. It isn't sitting in the darkness catching the latest superhero release. It's the community.

“Of course we miss movies, but on an emotional level we miss getting together with friends, running into a neighbor in the lobby, and we miss the special local programming that can't be found anywhere but here,” McLain said. “The feedback I'm receiving is about how much people miss getting together for the Hungry Traveler Series with Carol Yindra, and special events like Pirouettes, Pliés and Pets, with photographer Kim Roderiques and Adam Spencer of Adam in Chatham and Ballroom Dance Cape Cod.”

Yindra, Rodriques and Spencer are all members of the new OCC, as are author Anne LeClaire, Gallery Antonia owner Domonic Boreffi and others who are involved in the local arts and cultural community.

Yindra, creator of the popular Orpheum documentary series The Hungry Traveler, has spent the socially distanced months attending virtual film festivals and gathering ideas for the time when we will all be able to gather in front of the big screen again. Yindra is excited about the mutual inspiration that the council is sure to foster.

“It's a great opportunity,” Yindra said. “I don't really know the other people on the council yet, and I know it will bring such variety to the community. When you get together with people who have different areas of interest, you can share and discover new ideas. Kevin is so creative and wonderful to work with. I look forward to it and I think it will provide many new ideas to draw from.”

LeClaire expressed her enthusiasm for both the new OCC and a return to in-person events at the Orpheum.

“I am so happy that I will still be able to drive into town and see new releases at the Orpheum,” LeClaire said, “and I am beyond excited to expand my relationship with the Orpheum, and to seeing all the great plans this terrific group has put together coming to fruition. This development of even more cultural programming is such a natural fit for the theater and the community. I can’t wait to start, and to see everyone again!”

Boreffi has been involved, along with Gallery Antonia, in The Chatham Orpheum's annual gala fundraiser at The Wequasset Inn for years. Gallery Antonia artists Ginny Nickerson, Susan Hollis, Ann Hart and Elizabeth Lazeren's generously donated works were auctioned to raise funds for the theater.

“Everything works so much better when it's collaborative,” Boreffi said. “The artists were so gracious to donate their work, and a relationship was created between the gallery and the theater. More recently the Orpheum wanted to do an artist series, and along with that produce a short video showing artists in their studios working. That was on the Orpheum website, and sometimes shown as an introduction to one of their art movies. People could make the local connection, and it was very well done.”

McLain explained that an important part of the OCC's vision includes providing after-school programming for children, with the focus on making it accessible to everyone. The ultimate goal is to provide cultural programming for children in the community free of charge. It's easy to forget that our largely wealthy and comfortable community also includes families for whom the cost of a ticket may be prohibitive, McLain said. If five kids come into the theater and one is inspired to go into arts, he said, that is the goal and the point.

“It's a team effort, and we all have the same goal.” McLain said.