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 September 2021 NEWFOUNDLAKELIFE.COM Page 11 Community
Theater & Entertainment Thrive at Franklin Opera House
By leSlie SaNDerSoN
Just 15 miles south of Bristol lies the town of Franklin and the Historic Franklin Opera House, an intimate theater and live en- tertainment venue that offers affordable, quality performances year-round. (From Bristol Cen- ter, Route 3A south takes about 20 minutes.) The Opera House hums with creativity, local talent and guest performers. Built in 1892 for town offices and a the- ater, The Opera House was re- stored in 2000. It became home to the Franklin Footlight Theatre, a nonprofit community group es- tablished in 1995 by Jule Finley to nurture theater for local stu- dents.
Finley says, “Footlight The- atre’s energy drove the Opera House restoration because the arts were being rejuvenated in Franklin. Since then, we launched our summer FACT program (Franklin Area Chil- dren’s Theatre) and other the- ater education programs.” FACT provides a positive experience for youngsters in grades 1 -8, teach- ing them theater basics and per- formance art. Teen interns gain experience by mentoring and teaching the children. In addi- tion, each camp produces a show at the Opera House.
The Footlight Theatre is an
all-volunteer community the- ater group, describing itself as a “family,” with members rang- ing from teens to seniors. Finley is the “matriarch” and Theatre Director with vast experience in theater, education, and commu- nity service.
Consistently, Footlight mem- bers say what draws them in - and keeps them returning - is the feeling of family. The group’s spirit of acceptance is palpable, and members’ care for one an- other is uplifting. When Finley started the Theatre, she taught drama at Franklin High School and inspired her students to join the group. Many, like Finley’s for- mer student Erin Wilcox, have been involved since then - for 26 years. Siblings and friends recruit each other; children recruit their parents; students recruit their teachers.
Franklin High’s math teacher David Bedard recently was cast in a lead role, and Finley’s hus- band and daughters are long- standing cast and production members. Finley also recruited Robbie LaFlamme to assist her. His children are also members. Says LaFlamme, “Footlight gave me a true sense of purpose when I needed it.” He praises the group for inspiring him to teach and encourage his kids to be cre- ative and respect the process of
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theater. He says Footlight also gives kids a safe place to go after school.
In August at the Opera House, Footlight Theatre pro- duced six performances of Broadway’s Disaster, the Mu- sical, a comic homage to the 1970’s disaster films. A 35-40 cast members production team made it a smash hit that brought full house audiences to ovations of laughter and applause. Roy Hubble Sr., was recruited by his daughter in 2004, was in Di- saster’s cast, and described the
production. “We brought laugh- ter and joy to the patrons of the Franklin Opera House. I wish I could bottle up the feelings I have about this group. I would spread it all over the world. That would truly make the world a much bet- ter place. I’m very proud to say that I am part of this very unique group.”
In addition to the Footlight Theatre’s four annual perfor- mances and the FACTsummer show, Franklin Opera House of- fers a variety of entertainment. Upcoming fall shows include
The Rockin’ Daddios on Sep- tember 25; The Harp Twins on October 9; Fiddlers Three on October 16; Fred Marple: OneMan, Half a Wit on Octo- ber 23; and Matilda, a musical, November 4 - 7. Information and tickets on these and future shows are at www.franklinoper-
Auditions for Footlight’s De- cember production of Elf the Musical will be in September. For audition information and to donate, go to www.franklinthe-
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