Suspended Worlds at COH

August 17, 2022

The Fiske Free Library in cooperation with the Claremont Opera House will host Suspended Worlds: Historic Stage Curtains in New England on Wednesday, September 7, 2022 at 7pm on the stage of the Claremont Opera House, Broad Street, Claremont, NH.

In celebration of the Opera House’s 125th anniversary, the Fiske Free Library and the Claremont Opera House have joined to host Christine Hadsel, of Curtains Without Borders, as she presents her illustrated talk on the painted stage curtains of New England. Major financial support for Ms. Hadsel’s program has been provided by the Claremont Savings Bank. Ms. Hadsel will introduce us to the world of the painted stage curtain focusing on the many curtains found in the three northern New England states. Painted stage curtains, in vogue from the 1890’s to the 1940’s, were used in grand opera houses, like our own in Claremont, to smaller town halls, Granges, and other venues in small and large towns and cities throughout New England and across the country. Christine Hadsel is the Executive Director of Curtains Without Borders. In 1996, after finding her first dusty, folded-up stage curtain in Vergennes VT, Hadsel worked with Mary Jo Davis, Conservator, first on documenting all the painted stage curtains in Vermont under the name Curtains Without Borders. What initially was thought to be a couple dozen curtains turned out to be over 175 curtains. This effort quickly evolved into, not only documenting, but restoration from cleaning to full-blown repair, in-painting, and rehanging.

Curtains Without Borders crossed the river in 2008 and began documenting the painted curtains in New Hampshire. Two years later work began on documenting Maine’s painted curtains followed by the states in southern New England and New York. In 2015 Curtains Without Borders decided to extend its range to include the entire country. To date, according to the map on their website, Curtains Without Borders has documented more than 600 painted stage curtains across the country. More than 400 of those curtains are located in Maine, New Hampshire, and Vermont.

The scenery on these “suspended worlds” ranges from historical and allegorical scenes to local views. Curtains found in Grange halls are unique in that they incorporate advertisements of local businesses surrounding a central historical or local scene. In documenting and preserving all these painted stage curtains and other stage scenery Hadsel and her colleagues have also raised the curtain on the artists of these works and their backgrounds which, in many cases, are as interesting as the curtains themselves.

Suspended Worlds at the Claremont Opera House is free and open to the public. No tickets required. Doors open at 6:30 pm with the show starting at 7pm. Further information may be available by calling the Fiske Free Library at 603-542-7017.


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