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and straight people. “I didn’t want the play to preach to the choir,” he says. “It was fascinating to take the play to the heart of its drama — literally … These people are right on the front lines.” An email dispatch from the production’s Kickstarter campaign mentions “a mother whose son died of AIDS, parents who came to ‘understand,’” and “students who drove up to three hours to see our show.” Lantz estimates that turnout for the talk backs was in the neighborhood of 90 percent of the audience. A recurring theme in these exchanges: Kansans’ insistence that the WBC not only doesn’t represent their beliefs and values but that the church’s hate mongering has actually fostered a more tolerant community. The response to The Bus has left Lantz feeling profoundly “humbled” but “hellbent” on keeping his creative wheels turning. He says that the play’s productions have generated interest for more of them in the heartland — Oklahoma and

Post-Irene « p.19

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STATE OF THE ARTS 21

own small gallery. Looking at exciting art and successful art institutions enabled her to bring back “the conversation that it’s important for art to reach people as much as it can,” Mackay explains. “To make the line between high and low art thinner and thinner.” To that end, she curated three simultaneous holiday exhibits: bronze sculptures, and a few prints, by Middlebury artist DaviD BumBeck; photographs of Irene’s devastation in the area by John and kate PenwarDen of Mount Holly, Vt.; and a group show of petite works, priced under $1000, by notable regional artists whom Mackay has previously shown at the gallery. Titled “The Small Great Art Wall,” the selection features pieces under 20 inches square by the likes of Ben Frank moss, Bunny harvey, eDwarD koren and henry isaacs. Mackay, like everyone else in Rochester, hopes to put the place back on the map and into the minds of potential visitors. In her case, visitors who would appreciate, as she calls it, “my little gallery in my little town.” m

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Today, the roads are back — though not all of Rochester’s homes or businesses are. Even so, says Mackay, “A lot of very positive things have happened from the point of view of the community itself.” An organization called Green Mountain Valley Business Community has been formed to help the five-town area comprising Granville, Hancock, Rochester, Stockbridge and Pittsfield. And, though there is still “a palpable sense of fragility,” Mackay says there is “a lot more energy toward reaching out, creating a dynamic system by which people can be joined with us.” For one thing, the group is seeking state designation as a “scenic byway,” filling in what Mackay calls a gap (on Route 100) between Killington and Warren. She envisions having a tourist welcome center in Rochester to “show people what the area has to offer.” Meanwhile, Mackay also managed to get away from the post-Irene fray; she attended the huge festival Art Basel Miami Beach, and visited museums in Chicago and Milwaukee. The trips got her “charged up” about the mission of her

Nebraska — as well as in San Francisco, London and South Africa. The playwright is “cautiously optimistic” about whether The Bus will roll on. In any event, Lantz says he wants to “proselytize” to other thespians about reaching new audiences while he ponders what his latest Bus trip has taught him. Some of these lessons have to do with using art to advance a cause — and vice versa. “The minute that there was a cause behind this,” Lantz recalls, “people became backers of the project. Doors opened for us.” Another lesson is more personal: “Along the way to Kansas, I learned some things about my tribe, about my people on this side of the fence, about my own prejudices of Kansas,” he says. “And I have some work to do.” m

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