August 2014 Remarks at Opening of Plainfield's Town Hall Opera House
The Town Hall Opera House building was our ancestor’s version of Social Media/Movies/TV. In the days of harsher winters, no electricity and horse drawn carriages a public building dedicated to ‘meeting’ was essential. Our forebears familiarity with silence and darkness would be exceptional to today’s most ardent shut-ins. This is not to say their world was grim but rather it was more isolated and less convenient. The Town Hall Opera House served the the purpose of affirming something larger. This place offered a moment of communion which all human’s crave. That muddy two hour slog to the meeting, or play or concert, delivered that tactile burst of knowing that somehow you are part of something larger; which in turn shaped those many hours of solitary reflection.
With tax dollars having to be stretched fuzzy notions about the importance local face to face gatherings fall prey to solid counter arguments based on cost and alternatives. There are other ways to host town meeting. There are other venues available for entertainment. It is risky to allocate resources to a project that has a troublesome history both structurally and financially.
In order to respect ALL sides and uphold the value of a community space one must turn to a very special kind of leadership. Former Selectboard Chairman David Strong stepped into the thankless void of raising private money and personally supervising an extremely complicated renovation. We now enjoy the fruits of David’s labor. It was a group effort - but he was in charge and inspired everyone with his boundless energy.
Our practical selves can view this as the Town adding value to an asset while sparing the taxpayer an expense. The more esoteric can see David’s work as continuing the much needed building of a broader sense of togetherness. We need creative ways to stretch the taxpayer dollar. We also desperately need spaces to join together.
It sounds trite, but as we become more electronically intertwined, bearing witness as a group takes on more significance. Traveling to the Town Hall Opera House is an act of affirming that we are not islands unto ourselves. We are all part of something larger. On a national level our Founding Farther’s knew the importance of group gatherings by making Freedom of Assembly the FIRST amendment in the Bill of Rights. Thank you David for reminding us of something our ancestors knew all along. Plainfield now has a place to come together. There will be triumphs and virtuoso performances. There will also be acrimony and artists who miss the mark. But whatever the occasion, the experience will be sure to impact our quiet moments and shape us as a community. It is what happens after the curtain falls that counts the most.