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The main theater at the Latchis fills up before an event.

The Arts

Shining the spotlight on community

The Latchis turns 80 with a day full of fun and history

BRATTLEBORO—The Latchis Memorial Building is celebrating its 80th birthday, and Latchis Arts is throwing a party to celebrate the occasion on Saturday, Sept. 22.

Everyone is invited to a day-long celebration that will include live performances from 2 to 4 p.m. and 7 to 9 p.m., special movie programs, and, of course, birthday cake.

All special events and activities are free to the public, as the Latchis’ gift to the community that has sustained and supported it for 80 years. The celebration is made possible thanks to the generosity of The Richards Group and Mark and Liz Richards.

For 80 years, the Latchis Memorial Building has been host to thousands of films, live performances, special programs, fundraisers galore, community conversations, political speeches, dances, weddings, graduations, and just about anything else you can think of.

Latchis Arts, the nonprofit organization dedicated to preserving the historic Latchis building and hosting and promoting cultural activities there, wanted to throw a party that celebrated the role the Latchis has played in the community during its 80-year history.

“It was very clear to all of us at Latchis Arts that the best way to celebrate our 80th birthday was to turn the spotlight around and have it shine on our community,” Latchis Arts Executive Director Jon Potter said in a news release.

“This celebration really represents what goes on at the Latchis in any given year, but compressed into a single, amazing day,” Potter added. “Community performers and arts organizations grace our stage all year long, and our friends and neighbors fill the seats and sustain us. That’s our essence, and that’s what we wanted the day to be about.”

Many of the local artists and arts organizations that present events regularly at the Latchis will donate their talents for the celebration.

The afternoon performance, which runs from 2 to 4 p.m., will feature the Brattleboro Music Center’s flute choir; a sneak preview of the opera “Turandot,” which the Windham Orchestra will present at the Latchis in October; a special appearance by Stephen Stearns; and, representing the Vermont Jazz Center, the group Wanda Houston and the Mothership Trio will play music from the swing era when the Latchis first opened. Featured is vocalist Wanda Houston, with Eugene Uman on piano, Wayne Roberts on bass, and Claire Arenius on drums.

The evening performance runs from 7 to 9 p.m. and will feature performers from the New England Center for Circus Arts; the youth rock band Moxie, winners of the first Windham County’s Got Talent on the Latchis stage last January; and the Windham Orchestra performing a piece selected especially for the Latchis’ 80th birthday.

In addition to the live performances, there will be special screenings all day of movies that celebrate the Latchis’ 80-year history.

Among them is the first movie ever shown in the Latchis Memorial Building, My Lucky Star, a musical ice skating romance starring Sonja Henie. Nope, they don’t make ‘em like that anymore.

Also featured will be the world premiere of Built To Last, a new, 15-minute documentary about the Latchis Family and the building of the Latchis Memorial Building, made and produced for Latchis Arts by Latchis Arts board member Jennifer Latham.

The film was inspired by Latchis Arts President Gordon Hayward’s 2016 book, Greek Epic, which tells the extraordinary story of the Latchis Family and the theater empire they built.

Copies of the book will be for sale at the event. There will be vintage newsreels from 1938 and other special film programs to be announced. Films will start at 10 a.m. and run all day.

At 5:30 p.m., people can gather in the Latchis Theatre lobby for the cutting of a Latchis 80th birthday cake and cupcakes.

In conjunction with the 80th birthday, there will also be an exhibit in the Latchis Gallery, featuring photographs and other materials that tell the story of the Latchis Memorial Building’s 80-year history. The exhibit will run in September and October.

The day will conclude with a late-night, ticketed puppet slam titled Puppet Mutiny, presented in partnership with Sandglass Theater as part of the Puppets in the Green Mountains Festival. Puppet Mutiny starts at 10 p.m. Tickets are $10, available at PH2018.ticketspice.com/PM.

All other special events at the Latchis Theatre on Saturday, Sept. 22, are free and open to the public. Commercial, first-run movies will be shown that day at the usual times for the regular prices.

Details about the 80th anniversary celebration and other special programs at the Latchis can be found at www.latchisarts.org.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #476 (Wednesday, September 12, 2018). This story appeared on page B1.

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