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Jimmy sits down with David Lavalley, Executive Director of The Center for Arts in Natick, Mass to talk about this artistic jewel in the suburbs of Boston celebrating 25 years of arts, community and culture in Natick Center.
TCAN provides a cultural center to the MetroWest Boston region, where national and emerging artists present performances, literary events, and art exhibitions in an environment that brings together individuals and families, children and seniors. Classes in music and theatre are held for students of all ages.
The extraordinary volunteers, community support and exquisite sound, lights and seating make this venue a destination for music, comedy, theatre, kid shows and independent film. They also host fundraisers and private rentals.
Topics discussed in this episode include:
- Jimmy elaborates on what makes this renovated firehouse such an appealing place to perform. (02:29)
- David dives into the evolution of the Art Community Programs (07:18)
- Dining opportunities in the neighborhood (10:00)
- David explains that with 270 seats they’re able to bring in national musical headliners such as Tom Rush, Rickie Lee Jones, The Smithereens, Deborah Henson-Conant, Vance Gilbert, Ronnie Earl, James Montgomery, Ellis Paul, Don White and many more plus nationally known comics like Jimmy Tingle, Lenny Clarke, Steve Sweeney, Kelly MacFarland and Robert Klein. (10:31)
- David discusses the newer arthouse cinema programs (13:45)
The Center for the Arts in Natick is the Humor for Humanity Beneficiary of this episode, Click here to Donate
Connect with TCAN
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- Twitter – (@natickarts)
- Instagram – (@natickarts)
- YouTube – (@The Center for the Arts in Natick)
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Transcript – Please note, this Transcript is AI Generated. It has not had the discerning ears of a real human to edit it, as such, there are bound to be a few errors.
Jimmy Tingle 0:05
Ladies and gentlemen, this is your lucky day. Welcome back to the Jimmy tingle show. I am Jimmy and I am so thrilled to be doing this show. First of all, I’m having a blast talking to a lot of my friends. A lot of the people I’ve worked with over the years and today is no different. Today, my guest is David Lavallee. He is the Executive Director of the Center for the Arts in Natick, and it is a wonderful performing arts center right there and Natick center that I’ve worked at for, oh, probably 1015 times over the last 20 years. They’re celebrating their 25th year in business. And David is the executive director for the last 18 years. It is a restored firehouse. And I’m so excited a to be going back there on February 19. Saturday night, I’ll be there. So I want you to please come out and see the show. I think you’ll really enjoy it. And be I just want to talk to David because he’s just been such a wonderful supporter of the arts, wonderful supporter of musicians and comics and playwrights and filmmakers, and the community in Natick center. So let us in gentlemen, without further ado, drum roll, please. The one the only Mr. David Lavallee. How are you, David?
David Lavalley 1:20
Jimmy, it’s so good to see you. Thanks for having me. This is this is just awesome.
Jimmy Tingle 1:25
Of course, David. Of course. I’m so glad that we could do it. So you’ve been there for 18 years, David, it is a restored firehouse, you’re the executive director, you actually brought your wife Sherry, who is unbelievably supportive of you into the operation as a volunteer, how do you get your wife to volunteer for an arts organization,
David Lavalley 1:50
it’s this is probably our strategy for keeping an eye on me. Instead of instead of me, being here it late nights at all these weekend shows. But actually Sherry loves the arts as much as I do. She’s a big fan of music and comedy. She comes to a number of performances and her major contribution here is that she has been training and recruiting all of our volunteers all of our event volunteers for many, many years. So they aim really high. They try to do the best job that they can to make a great experience for people. But I owe that all to Sherry. She’s been great.
Jimmy Tingle 2:29
Well she has been great and so of you. And every time I’m there every time I played there, the last. You know like I said over the last 20 years your volunteers are superb. They are so enthusiastic. They love the shows the their work in the bar, they’re working the door, they’re working the ticket booth, they’re selling helping to sell CDs and DVDs after the show. It’s one of these establishments that you can go in, you can have a drink plenty of seating, very comfortable event very intimate, it holds 200 Excuse me 250 people so it’s not overwhelming with the crowds. There’s parking in the area, there’s parking behind the the the venue and then there’s parking on the street, there’s always plenty of parking, it’s a great place but those volunteers they really make a difference don’t they?
David Lavalley 3:19
You know I when I go to a concert no matter where it is the Orpheum the Wilbur the garden, all of these big places. You know the the experience, there’s so many different variables to making a great quality experience, you know, you want the ticketing experience to be great, you want the sound and the lighting to be to be wonderful. You really want the artist to give you the best performance that they can, they can but all of these ingredients add up to make a great event. You know, our kind of our mantra is, we’re a small space but we’re going to create a big experience. So the volunteers are such a important part of making that happen. You know the their interaction with the patrons to make them feel warm and welcome. To be polite to be respectful. It’s a very important part of what what it is that makes tea can tea camp.
Jimmy Tingle 4:16
It really is. And I have to say when you say you want to make the artist comfortable, your dressing room is nicer than my house. The dressing room that you afford me young Jim tingle in the basement of tea can is awesome. This couch, there’s a refrigerator there’s places to hang your clothes. I mean we have a nice house but there’s no refrigerator. There’s no refrigerator when the tingle Kondo I kid, please my wife will never watch this. No, but it’s just a very accommodating and welcoming venue for both the audience’s and the artists. And the other thing that I love about it is of course, to take an old firehouse that was I don’t know if it was condemned, but it was going to be destroyed Right. And the town of Natick, and the the artists in the, and the community rallied and they the town was able to save it and they got some investors apparently, and they were able to renovate it and make this wonderful performance space. So that’s, uh, that’s just very cool. So when you’re in that building, you’re in a historic building right there in downtown Natick. Correct.
David Lavalley 5:20
Yeah, I think that that makes a big difference in terms of your enjoyment of the experience. You know, what, there are some venues that it’s all white sheet rock, it looks like the indoors of the inside of a condo, this has a history to it, you look around the room, I’m here now. And you can see the these bricks that have been here since 1875, when the place was built not long after the end of the Civil War. So this place has a lot of stories to tell, you know, in the when this firehouse was first built, you know, there were horse drawn fire trucks that were the harnesses would drop down on the horses, and they would exit out the fire doors. And you know, over time, it’d be it was too small, it was not usable as a working firehouse any longer. But we were so fortunate to buy the building from the town, and then through the support of so many donors, renovate it twice, once once in the main stage with the second to create a movie theater. Yeah,
Jimmy Tingle 6:22
it’s very, very cool. And what they do, and this is very innovative, like the tickets to my show, I think are like $24 $25. But if you pay an extra $10, ladies and gentlemen at the intermission, they let you slide down the pole that the firefighters used to slide down, you slide right down the pole and onto the stage, and then you get a call back to your seat and get another drink. So it’s been a little interactive experience we do at the Center for the Arts and Natick. But David, so tell me, I’m also so impressed with the programming that you’re doing, because we just came through this pandemic, and you have actually upped your game. I mean, it’s incredible. You have kids shows, you have classes, you have kids comedy, I should take one of your kids comedy classes, because I never study comedy. I just do it. You have theatrical events, theatrical classes, and and the community has rallied around you. Is that correct?
David Lavalley 7:18
Yeah, the the the art community programs have evolved over time. I think in the early days back, you know, 25 years ago, 9798. Community Programs was pretty much 100% of what t ken did. And in those days t ken was in this little 70 seat, storefront on in Natick center. Once they purchased the building and renovated it, and now we have 270 seats, you need to do different kinds of programming to put people in those in those seats, obviously. So that’s where we would present someone like you Jimmy or, or the Smithereens or Ricky Lee Jones. But the community programs have always been a core part of what we do. And we’ll continue that, but we’re evolving that, you know, we’re looking for new ways to connect people from all walks of life through the arts,
Jimmy Tingle 8:14
right. Well, it’s very admirable. And the other thing that’s great for it is it’s great for the town. Because I As you remember, I used to have a theater and Davis square Somerville. And they told me, you know, for every $1 that’s spent on an entertainment ticket, in a neighborhood, at a venue $10 is spent in the surrounding neighborhood in restaurants and pubs and shopping. And I, as I told you before the show started today, after five years of running that theater, I said, I’d like my $10 back. I’m not asking for a lot. I just want my $10 back so it becomes a destination spot for a Natick center and how has the town and the community in the Chamber of Commerce? How have they responded to your venue?
David Lavalley 8:57
Well, the the restaurants have been such wonderful partners and I’m sure when you were in Davis square, the same same thing was probably true you go into one of these restaurants and it’s like David, Dr. Levine delivered Liga to dinner
Jimmy Tingle 9:13
made us $5,000 tonight Let me get you a drink have a meal.
David Lavalley 9:17
Yeah, because you know the entertainment bone is connected to the food and alcohol bone you know it’s like if you want to a total package when you when you go out and so they’ve been fabulous. But you know in recent years a number of condominium projects and housing developments have risen up around Natick center because the idea of, of living in a place that’s one close to the commuter rail, but is a block away from a from a performing arts center that as national touring acts. Natick center is become a real destination and a real appealing place for people to be heard. Eat
Jimmy Tingle 10:00
while I’m there, February 19. Saturday night Do you do any dinner show packages with any of the surrounding restaurants,
David Lavalley 10:08
there are great restaurants nearby the butter cup is a great farm to table restaurant, terrific meals. Dami is a great tie plays Agra ski knows great Italian place. So these are all within walking distance of the venue.
Jimmy Tingle 10:24
David, by any chance at any of the restaurants listed on your website.
David Lavalley 10:28
Yes, we have. There’s a dining guide page or Yeah.
Jimmy Tingle 10:31
Natick arts.org. And there is a dining page there. So if you want to come to the show, right there, make dinner reservations, come over for the show. And we’re going to keep the show clean, ladies and gentlemen. So you’ll be able to digest your food peacefully. Great. So David, so the audience’s are into it. The volunteers are into it, the neighboring communities into it. What you talked about some of the acts that are coming through I mean Rickie Lee Jones, or to get to have at your, your venue and the smithereens. That’s fantastic. You know,
David Lavalley 11:09
I think there are a lot of artists who are people like Rickie Lee Jones, I’m sure played much, much larger venues back in her heyday. But now what they value is being in a more intimate room where they can really connect with the audience and the audiences here are so appreciative to see these wonderful acts up close. It’s a powerful artistic moment when you’re, you know, a talent of that magnitude is is 1012 feet away from you. So really is we’re lucky to get those wonderful players.
Jimmy Tingle 11:44
And Tom Rush is Tom Marsh comes through, which is really wonderful is such a great performer, my friend. Deborah Henson Conant plays, they’re often wonderful musician Vance Gilbert plays there. So David, what else can you tell us about the venue? What else can you tell us to expect from the experience at T can,
David Lavalley 12:06
you know, I think the staffing which we’ve talked about terms of the volunteers and my wife, and the quality of the performers we have, are really the main ingredient. But you know, when I go to a show, I’m very picky about the sound, I’m very picky about the lighting. I really don’t want any distractions between what the performer is doing and and what I’m experiencing. And we over time have been fortunate to install just some incredible sound and lighting gear state of the art equipment, so that the experience is top quality and can really competes with with any other venue in the Boston area. Over the pandemic, we were also fortunate to get a grant that allowed us to install video cameras. So now we have three remote controlled video cameras that allow us to do live streams or to record a performance and do a bit of editing and then make it available. We we have one on online now with a fabulous guitarist by the name of Tommy Emmanuel. It’s already it was we premiered it on December 11, which was only, I don’t know, seven weeks, seven weeks ago at this point. And it’s already received 75,000 views on YouTube. It’s just the quality is top notch. His performance is off, you know off the hook, but definitely worth seeing if you haven’t if you haven’t seen it. Well, that’s
Jimmy Tingle 13:38
great. And also you added a film dimension to the to the venue. Tell me about what you’re doing with film.
David Lavalley 13:45
Yeah, so we when we first renovated the firehouse, we didn’t have enough money to really do anything with our second floor, the two storey building, and if so it was an our attic for years and years and years. And it’s such a gorgeous space. It has all of these giant wooden trusses that are visible. So you really get a sense of that architecture of the 1800s. But we didn’t know what to do with it. Anyway, we we launched a capital campaign and managed to raise close to $2 million to renovate that space as a movie theater. So now we have a second venue. It’s 120 seats, and we have a 25 foot screen full surround sound. We work with Boston light and sound, a major supplier in the Boston area of that high end movie equipment and we’re showing first run feature films and the Oscar shorts in great documentaries. And so it’s a great arthouse cinema type of idea out here in the suburbs.
Jimmy Tingle 14:47
That’s fantastic. You know, David, I’m gonna hit you up right now. Maybe you could show my latest documentary Jimmy tingles 2020 vision. Why would a comedian run for office? It’s been rejected by HBO Netflix show times Comedy Central Hulu he hahahahaha. It’s been rejected by all those but t ken might run this film and give the people the opportunity they deserve in this country to see tangled on the big screen.
David Lavalley 15:16
Well, I’m sure if we wrap that up with a personal appearance that could probably happen.
Jimmy Tingle 15:22
Well, I look forward to it. David, I can’t wait to get there on February 19. Ladies and gentlemen, it’s a great venue. And if you can’t see me there, you can make a donation, you can make a donation in the link, there was a link in our chat, we are supporting T can the Center for the Arts in Natick, that is a humor for humanity. Partner for this particular broadcast, you can make a donation there. There’s two ways to help you can buy a ticket to the show on February 19. That helps me and it helps David and the Center for the Arts and Natick or if you can’t come you can make a donation right there in the in the show notes to T can. There’s an Eventbrite link there and they will get the money in 30 days. So that would be great. They will appreciate it. They can just continue their wonderful programming to support of the artists community, the neighboring restaurants and pubs that I just thriving in Natick center. And David, I have to tell you, you have to give Sherry all of our love because she’s just been wonderful. She’s leading the volunteers and like a pack, you walk in there and you are surrounded by love letters in German, they take off your coat, they comb your hair, they brushed your teeth, they walk into your seat, they get you a drink, they even sometimes they pay for the drink, let us know. This is how generous the people at tea can. But it’s a lot of fun. It’s a great venue. I can’t wait to get there on Saturday night, February 15. I hope you folks can join us. But if you can’t join us for our show, please check them out. And the website again,
David Lavalley 16:56
David is a Natick, arts.org
Jimmy Tingle 17:00
Natick art.org. And if you really want to help them out and help yourself, become a member become a member of t can you get discounts to all the shows? As a matter of fact, if you become a member, you can get a discount to the tinggal show. Not a bad deal. Okay? Not a bad deal. A volunteer textured coat, sit you down. Did I say that they bring you food to your seats, David that I tell them that they bring you food to your seats. So you can sit there you can eat your drink. And they don’t even charge you for this. This is the type of hospitality that you get at the Center for the Arts at Natick. David, it’s great to see you my love to your family. And thank you so much for all the great work you’ve been doing for the last 25 years.
David Lavalley 17:43
Thank you, Jimmy. I’m looking forward to your show, mate. Oh, thanks again. I appreciate it, man. Thank you.
Jimmy Tingle 17:48
My pleasure. Bye bye