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Local News

July 7, 2014

Theater group gets OK to use arts center

IPSWICH — A potentially bitter dispute between the Ipswich school administration and a local theater group has been settled amicably.

“Honk,” a version of the “Ugly Duckling” performed by school-age actors for Moonlight Productions, will go on as scheduled, July 24 to 26. Previously, Superintendent William Hart had planned to bar the group at least for the summer as a result of what he perceived as the group’s carelessness in monitoring the child actors and in a decision to move an $80,000 Steinway grand piano during a previous production. Hart said the piano could have been damaged.

On the other hand, he acknowledged the strong support Moonlight was receiving from residents, and he had promised to meet again and discuss the matter with director J. T. Turner.

In a joint statement, the two acknowledged “recent misunderstandings and concerns” but announced their intention “to focus on our shared values and move forward constructively.”

Turner had complained of not being told that the piano should not be moved. He defended the supervision of the young performers. Moonlight has used the facility twice before. Further, Turner served in the past as drama director for the middle school, which also uses the performing arts center.

The joint agreement is aimed at preventing misunderstandings in the future. It calls for walk-throughs before and after the use of the facility to establish its condition. In addition, anything on stage that needs to be moved “will only be done by the school, or with the school’s approval.” Further, the school will be alerted to “a list of all stage pieces being introduced to the space.”

The agreement calls for any use of the facility to be reviewed annually.

“I’m delighted,” said volunteer Linda Greenstein, whose son is one of the performers. The kids get a venue to perform in, she said, while residents get “a comfortable place to go and see the show.” The production of “Honk” is being done in conjunction with the Ipswich Recreation Department.

“The (Ipswich Performing Arts Center) is a valuable resource that both parties seek to protect and make full use of to benefit our shared community,” said the agreement. “We mutually support its safe, appropriate use and care-taking by both school and community groups.”

Alan Burke can be reached at aburke@salemnews.com.

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