BAR HARBOR — The nonprofit that operates the 1932 Criterion Theatre works to make sure the historic art deco building is used to connect artists, audiences and the local community. That’s difficult to do in a pandemic, but the nonprofit has launched two new projects that fit the bill.
One is live performances on the Criterion stage that audiences can watch online. Last Tuesday, Winter Harbor-based singer-songwriter Gordon Thomas Ward performed as part of his Traveling Happy Hour concert series. The show was streamed, and can still be viewed, on the Criterion Theatre Facebook page.
The other project is a podcast hosted by Criterion Executive Director Taylor Valarik, featuring interviews with and performances by local musicians and other creators. Each episode also includes poetry read by Production Manager Chuck Colbert.
“The View from ‘32” (for the year the theater was built) is available anywhere podcasts can be downloaded and also on the Criterion’s YouTube channel.
The team chose the perfect guest for the inaugural episode. A beloved local musician who’s celebrating her 50th year in the music business, Bobbi Lane tells some of her favorite “road stories” and performs a few songs.
Her very first gig at 11 years old, she said, was at an ice cream store. “I had my five songs and my three chords, and I played those over and over and over. My pay was as much ice cream as I could eat.”
When her dad picked her up in his Chevy Corvair, she was ready for a lecture. But instead what he said was, “Barbara Ann, never ever again will you ever play for nothing. From this day forward you are a professional musician.”
“I didn’t know what it meant,” she said. “I just knew it was a big word and I liked it.”
As a teenager, Lane said, she was a huge Joni Mitchell fan. “I learned every song on every album she ever put out.”
She grew up in Bridgton and cut her teeth in the music business in North Conway, N.H. Once, early in her career, her agent booked a gig at a bar in Portsmouth, N.H., that had a net strung in front of the stage. She didn’t know why it was there, but she went about her businesses setting up her gear.
“I’m halfway through the first song, I don’t remember what it was, and I felt something splash on me.”
It was only when it happened a second time that she saw what it was: a tomato. And she saw the man in the crowd who had thrown it. She put down her guitar and “marched my little self” right up to him.
“I poked him on the chest and I called him a bunch of names,” she said. “I think about this now, he could have just killed me in one swat.”
Lane moved to Bar Harbor many years ago and loves what a supportive environment it is for musicians. She even hosted a music festival in her driveway for a few years. In the interview, she and Valarik discuss family, songwriting and sending CDs through the old-fashioned mail.
Other guests on “The View from ‘32” so far are also familiar names to Mount Desert Island music fans: Jim Coffman, Mark “Bluesboy” Kanter, Peter Lindquist and Gus LaCasse. Coming up soon is Brian Kupiec.
Valarik and Colbert are eager for ideas and suggestions from the community for guests or topics. Contact [email protected]