Brandi Brandes said the first time she drove into Stoughton and caught a glimpse of the opera house, it was like “opening a treasure box.”
During that first visit, she interviewed for the house manager position at the Stoughton Opera House.
The next time she drove into the city was with her family as they moved across the country from San Francisco to start a new chapter in the Midwest.
Brandes’ first day in her new role as house manager at the Stoughton Opera House was Tuesday, Sept. 3. She said she is excited to get to know Stoughton and develop deep relations with community members.
Her educational background is in world music and she was previously the director of Ashkenaz, a music and dance venue in Berkeley, California. Here is an edited Q&A with the newest face at the opera house.
Hub: What was your first impression of Stoughton?
Brandes: I remember driving in for my interview and coming down Cty. Road N. We turned right on to Main Street and there was this sudden breathtaking view near the railroad tracks. The youth center on the left, Abel Gallery on the right and then this curve where you suddenly see downtown. It was like opening a hidden treasure chest and I wasn’t sure what to expect. I saw pictures online of the theater and went, “Wow, what a cool gem in small town Wisconsin.” But when I turned that corner, I saw how much creativity there is here, like the fiber arts and art galleries and signs for the art walk. I just saw all this commitment to community and was totally blown away
Hub: What excites you about Stoughton and about the opera house?
Brandes: I’m excited to watch and support the evolution of director Bill Brehm’s vision for the place. I was the director at Ashkenaz but I’m not the director here and I’m here to learn.
As far as Stoughton, I’m here to experience the culture and learn from it and understand where people are coming from. One of the things I’m most excited about is getting to know what people love about Stoughton and why people are here.
Hub: What is your role as the house manager?
Brandes: The house manager position is making sure that everything from backstage to the line at the door is flowing as it should be with no problems, which is keeping a ton of pieces organized. Communication to the artists; where do we load in? What time? When is soundcheck? What’s our hotel room? The whole idea is organizing all the pieces around the artists so they can focus on their art.
Then the second piece is the audience; Where do we go? How do we get there? How do we get up the stairs? Who is going to be showing us to our seats? Making sure that everybody who has tickets gets their tickets and everyone who wants to buy tickets can buy tickets.
Hub: Why did you move all the way from San Francisco?
Brandes: Quality of life. My life is about the arts and I want to be dedicated to the arts. I want to be in the arts and I want to be able to have a decent quality of life. And that’s next to impossible to in the Bay area.
Hub: Tell us about the venue you worked at in Berkley?
Brandes: My previous venue in Berkeley was about music and dance from all over the world. For me, as a proud American, I think celebrating ethnic heritage is one of the coolest things that we can do because the whole concept of our country is based on people from all over the world. And on that note, I’m really excited to check out Livsreise and Syttende Mai.
Hub: What will you do in your free time?
Brandes: My entire life has really been about being an arts enabler, which is a phrase that I stole from an incredible arts enabler in the Bay area. I imagine that I will also find myself helping independent artists who are struggling find grants or funding or support in some way. That’s what I always end up doing; I meet other musicians, I meet other artists and I try to get people the tools they need to open doors.
If you’d like to meet Brandes, she plans to play the marimba with her husband during the Stoughton Arts Walk on Sept. 28.