Susan Hodder marked the start of her “last big job” on October 3 when she began her new role as executive director of the Waldo Theatre. The former East Boothbay florist, innkeeper and tech marketing manager replaced Kate Fletcher, who left in July this year.
Hodder has been engaged in acting all her life, she said, writing and directing her first play in fifth grade. Her big breakthrough came two years later, when she was cast as the lead in a school production of “Oliver!” She continued to do “all the theater there was to do” in high school and remained involved in community theater thereafter.
“I have a business calling and a theatrical calling,” she said, “and it’s been that way all my life.”
Now, Hodder applies his talents and passions together to chart a lasting path for The Waldo, which has been revived many times over its 86-year history.
Hodder said she spent her early days with the organization in “sponge mode,” listening and learning from others. She met one-on-one with almost three-quarters of The Waldo’s board, volunteers and staff, with the intention of speaking to them all.
“I find out what their visions are, and what the story and the challenges are,” Hodder said. She uses their input to “create a problem-solving mindset to figure out where we go from here.”
Hodder has great respect for but feels great sadness for previous attempts to keep the Waldo operational, she said. This year is the Waldo’s first with a full lineup since its most recent reopening.
Hodder believes his extensive experience running nonprofit organizations will help the theater ensure its long-term viability. Part of her strategy is to develop a combination of revenue from ticket sales and revenue from grants and donations, she said.
Youth education and involvement are also important to Hodder, and she cited acting classes for elementary students, family film events and a vision of community-based productions for young people as important pieces of the programming puzzle. .
The theater’s busy schedule of offerings includes films, touring productions, touring musical artists and the cult film series Waldo After Dark, as well as exhibitions in the gallery in the lobby.
In November alone, the theater scheduled two musical acts, two art exhibits, a free family movie, weekly After Dark film screenings, and a community singing “The Sound of Music.”
“We want to find out what appeals to the community and expose them to new things,” Hodder said. “We are neither elitist nor pretentious; (Waldoboro is) not that kind of community.
“We want to be a community hub, a resource and an anchor, part of reviving downtown Waldoboro,” Hodder said.
Hodder envisions The Waldo becoming a community staple for the Midcoast as a whole. She said the theater had welcomed visitors from Portland and Camden for some musical events this summer.
As she continues to learn and meet the members, Hodder intends to spend the winter actively pursuing a diverse range of programs for the 2023-24 season.
She said that during her first few weeks at the Waldo, she was impressed with the performance space’s original design, renovations and technology, calling it a “wonderful place to stay”.
On one visit, Hodder described the energy in the building as “glorious”.
“The lights go out, the pulse goes up,” she said.
To follow The Waldo, visit thewaldotheatre.org, follow the theater on Instagram or find The Waldo Theater on Facebook.