Bath arts center marks anniversary with 'Life Begins at 40'

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BATH — This year’s Hot Chocolate Jubilee variety show marks two anniversaries – 40 years since the opening of the Chocolate Church Performing Arts Center, and 20 years since the first Jubilee took the stage at 804 Washington St.

“Life Begins at 40,” this year’s nod to a 1932 self-help book by Walter Pitkin, runs Thursday-Saturday at 7 p.m. and at 2 p.m. Sunday, April 2.

The jubilee is a biennial fundraiser for the center. More than $8,000 was raised two years ago, and Alison Freeman – the show’s producer and director – hopes this year’s event will top $10,000.

“The excitement around the show has been increasing, and so we are very excited,” she said in an interview March 16.

As master of ceremonies, a role traditional to variety shows of yore, Wayne Otto will introduce each act. Community members of all ages will dance and sing, the Jubilee Chorus will deliver comedy, and other offerings include the Tambo Line, Front Street Boys, and the “Up, Down, Middle” skit.

Each evening showcases different performers: Andreu and Bethel Keith on Thursday and Saturday, Martin Swinger on Friday, and Liz and Chris Lannon (a.k.a. Married with Chitlins) on Sunday.

Tickets for each performance, which cost $15, can be purchased online at chocolatechurcharts.org, by phone at 442-8455, or at the arts center’s box office.

The center’s building, dubbed the Chocolate Church due to its brown color and 1840s origin as a church, took on new life as a performing arts venue in 1977. Known then as the Performing Arts Center at Bath, the name was later changed to the Chocolate Church Arts Center.

The Hot Chocolate Jubilee launched in 1997 to mark the 20th anniversary of the arts center.

The committee that creates the show “is very dedicated to the notion of community,” Freeman said. “… By opening the creative process to everyone in the region, something magical and unexpected often happens. That is the (element of the show) that we really want to keep.”

Alex Lear can be reached at 781-3661 ext. 113 or alear@theforecaster.net. Follow him on Twitter: @learics.

The Chocolate Church Arts Center in Bath will celebrate its 40th birthday next weekend with the 20th annual Hot Chocolate Jubilee. Shown here is a Tambo Line performance from 2015.

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A Maine native and Colby College graduate, Alex has been covering coastal communities since 2001, and currently handles Bath, Topsham, Cumberland, and North Yarmouth. He and his wife, Lauren, live in the Portland area, and Alex recently released his third album of original music.