Vermont Voices: KRISTINE LEWIS

Kristine Lewis, Executive Director of Bennington’s Monument Arts & Cultural Center, speaks on her creative background and the importance of artistic programming 


Kristine Lewis is a celebrated producer, director, actor, choreographer, dancer, and casting director. She has served as the Executive Director of Monument Arts & Cultural Center in Bennington (MACC) since Fall 2023. Before taking the reins of MACC, her creative talents took shape through a wide range of artistic mediums. Lewis produced and directed stage and film productions with star studded casts, including Busker Alley (2006) and Evening Primrose (2010). She toured with the renowned American Ballet Theatre as a featured dancer, and she founded the Theatre Arts Company (TAC) in Bucks County, Pennsylvania and Queens, New York. 

Kristine Lewis

As Executive Director of MACC, Lewis channels decades of multi-faceted artistic experience into creating and producing compelling programming, performances, and workshops. She has revitalized the expansive campus that formerly housed the Laumeister Center into a multi-purpose cultural haven. Its 311-seat theater and versatile studio spaces have hosted sensational artistic programs, including plays, musical performances, dance and arts classes, and Health & Wellness workshops. Her work at MACC has brought new depth to Southern Vermont’s creative community, providing opportunities for local residents and visitors to enjoy world-class productions and artistic education programming. In the months leading up to MACC’s promising 2024 summer season, Lewis sat down with Manchester Life to share her thoughts on the importance of artistic education, the inspiration behind MACC’s programs and offerings, and her future plans for the blossoming Arts Center.

Q: Thanks so much for joining us, Kristine! It’s been incredible to watch Monument Arts & Cultural Center (MACC) flourish and grow under your direction. Before we talk about MACC and your evolving vision for its programming, we’d love to know how you first got started in the arts. 

A: When I was growing up in New York City, I had a friend who took ballet lessons. Her father was an actor and her mother was an artist. I would go with her to watch her ballet lessons, but my father wasn’t open to it at first. I had an aunt that lived upstairs from us, and after seeing me follow my friend to ballet class, she bought me lessons for Christmas. My teacher at that neighborhood school happened to be involved with American Ballet Theatre. She got me a scholarship there, and I started as a dancer. After that, I went and took dance lessons to be a Broadway dancer, I went to acting school at the American Academy of Dramatic Arts, and I started doing musical theater. Eventually, I wanted to do more serious theater, so I worked for a repertory company in Winston-Salem, North Carolina for a year. From there, I started working all the time and decided that I wanted to start choreographing. I became a choreographer and director and then I started producing, so I’ve done all shades of theater. I also co-founded a casting company in New York City called Lewis and Fox casting with my partner, Jamie Fox. I’m very fortunate in that I get to do what I love. I’ve never had to do anything else but theater, film, or television. 

Q: Here at Old Mill Road Media, we are passionate supporters of artistic mentorship. Who were some of the most pivotal mentors throughout your creative career?

A: One of them was Tony Walton. He was a legendary set and costume designer, director, a brilliant man, and a man with more kindness than you can imagine. I remember when I came back from a trip to Barcelona, we talked about the churches there. He told me all about them and how Gaudi designed them. We could just spend hours talking about anything together. I just adored him and his wife. I worked with him on several different projects, including Busker Alley with Jim Dale. We wanted Tony to direct, and so we worked with him for almost a year and a half on that. I also worked with him on Evening Primrose (2010), which is a Sondheim piece that was never performed on stage. It was a television piece that we recreated for a staged reading with Candice Bergen, Sean Palmer, and Jessica Grové. I was always very hopeful that I could work with him as much as possible, because I learned so much. I feel like that type of enhanced learning is the best way to learn. Wherever I went, even if I did a film, I would sit next to the DP (Director of Photography) and find out why they were shooting the way they were. I learned a lot by listening all the time. 

Q: Old Mill Road Media embraced that same collaborative spirit when we brought some of Broadway’s Best to the Southern Vermont Arts Center (SVAC) in 2022. Coincidentally, one of the stars that came to Manchester to perform for that series was Andrea McArdle, who you have also had the pleasure of working with. It was a wonderful experience having her up here, and it’s a performance that we’ll always remember. What were some of your most memorable artistic collaborations over the course of your career? 

A: Andrea has an incredible voice, and it was great to work with her on They’re Playing Our Song (2016). Another person that I adored working with was Liz Larsen, a Tony-nominated actress with a great, unique voice. More recently, it was great to work with Maxwell Caulfield and Juliet Mills, who came to MACC for Love Letters in February 2024. Maxwell and I worked together in New York on a show called Modern Man, which is about Manet and the three women he painted. 

Oren Gradus starred as Tevye in Fiddler on the Roof, April 2024.

Q: Love Letters was a wonderful performance! It beautifully exemplified the exceptional theatrical talent that you’re bringing to MACC, building on Southern Vermont’s established legacy as a thriving cultural hub. Many artists and creatives are drawn to regions that are naturally beautiful, such as Southern Vermont, The Berkshires, and Bucks County, where you founded Theatre Arts Center in 1985. You served as the Executive Director there until you came to Bennington in 2023, and you put on countless productions, which had a profound impact on Bucks County’s creative community. How did the time that you spent at Theatre Arts Center inform your perspective in terms of creating diverse programming at MACC that appeals to both visitors and local Southern Vermont residents?

A: When you’re born and raised in New York City, you think you know everything. When you go outside of New York, you realize that there is so much more than life in the city. I love New York, and I never thought that I would leave it, but when I went down to Bucks County to direct and choreograph at the Bucks County Playhouse, I decided that I would like to stay outside of New York for a bit. After spending a few years at Bucks County Playhouse, I opened the Theatre Arts Center (TAC), and another in New York City. I absolutely loved it. I loved seeing kids grow through our programs, go off to college, and be in the industry. I have a lot of students I taught at TAC who became very successful in the industry. We always did children’s shows in the summer, which is why the first thing I did when I came to MACC last year was direct and produce a production of The Little Mermaid with a bunch of local kids. I loved it. And that’s one of the reasons I’m so dedicated to fundraising for MACC. It’s an incredible resource for the community in every sense. 

Q: What drew you to MACC initially?

A: It all started when I got a call about this wonderful place from a woman that I hadn’t talked to in over a decade. She was the President of the Society of Animal Artists, who were gifted a large property by Southern Vermont College. She called me out of the blue, we started talking, and she told me that they were in possession of an arts center that had multiple gallery spaces and a 311-seat theater. She knew that I had produced all around the country and that I had been to the region when I came to Williamstown Theatre Festival years earlier. She told me that I had to come up for the weekend, and I fell in love with the theater, the area, and its lovely people. The theater is wonderful – the sightlines are fabulous, and the backstage area is fantastic, as well. I don’t ever want the theater to go away. The caring and kindness that theater brings to a community helps everyone.

Q: Multi-purpose cultural centers like MACC hold the power to bring people together through a variety of creative pursuits, and MACC’s artistic, dance, and theatrical programming and workshops speak to that. What can people expect from the upcoming season, and what are some of your favorite highlights?

Corinne Holland led the cast of The Sound of Music as Maria, December 2023.

A: We’re going to change all the galleries every three months. We started off the spring with “Vermont Landscapes” with Jim Coe and several other talented Vermont artists, including John MacDonald and George Van Hook. The exhibit was complemented by Corey Pitkin’s incredible pastels. That’s all changing on July 24, when we’re going to change the exhibits in our galleries. Don Trachte, Jr. is helping us open a covered bridge gallery upstairs, and Lyman Orton will be lending us some fantastic paintings from his collection. Don Trachte, Jr. also curated an amazing Norman Rockwell exhibit for us that focused on a long-lost Rockwell painting. For the covered bridge exhibit, we’re going to have books on every covered bridge in the United States and Canada. It’s going to be very exciting, and I’m looking forward to opening all of the galleries again for the summer. Berkshire Dance Company is bringing a dance showcase to our theatre, and I’m teaching three ballet classes a week myself. We put on a production of Fiddler on the Roof with Oren Gradus. In terms of youth community theater productions, we’re bringing in Drowsy Chaperone Jr., local director, Lynn Sweet, will direct, Aladdin, and 101 Dalmatians, which will be directed by Lauren Biasi. All of the productions are set aside for different age groups. As the season progresses, we’re looking to bring in touring musicians, such as Laurie Morvan, who performed last season. We want to continue to offer something for everyone. We’re bringing the Bennington Choral Society back for a performance in December, and we will have artistic workshops from many of our featured artists, including John MacDonald and Terry Miller. We’re also doing a weekend of workshops dedicated to health and wellness. There will be yoga workshops, centering workshops, sound healing sessions, and an on-site massage station. We’re going to have wellness speakers in the theatre, as well. It’s going to be a great event. 

Q: As you move forward with developing and growing MACC’s programming, what would your message be to the greater Southern Vermont community?

Hollywood’s award-winning couple, Juliet Mills and Maxwell Caulfield, starred opposite each other in Love Letters, February 2024.

A: I feel like Southern Vermont is coming into a renaissance. People who donate to Monument Arts & Cultural Center will help this center stay open to educate the next generation of local kids about the arts, and our galleries and theater will be able to stay open to provide a different kind of healing escape. Southern Vermont is well known for its beautiful scenery, and I think that our theatrical and cultural programming complements that and adds a different dimension of artistic exploration to it. It’s not just for people who come to see performances, but also for those who come to participate in our community theatre programs on every level. There are so many things that people can do to become involved besides donating. You can help backstage, you can help at the box office, or you can work in costuming, set design, or painting. One of my students went to college to pursue a career in acting, and he ended up deciding that he didn’t like auditioning. He changed paths and became the youngest person to open a Broadway show, Waitress: The Musical. I believe that learning to act in a theatrical production helps to develop communication skills and self-awareness. It’s a little bit like therapy. If you have an interview and you’re able to talk to people and listen, which is a crucial part of the creative process, you’re going to be able to put yourself forward in a more confident way. I think theater, painting, and anything in the arts teaches those lessons in a way that nothing else can.