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Resident’s Love Of Theater Shines Through At The Palace Danbury

Published: May 26, 2018

Over the course of Carol Spiegel’s career, she has become a chameleon in the entertainment industry. Currently, she uses her expertise at The Palace Danbury, booking everything from live music and theater productions to film presentations and comedy acts for the historic 400-capacity performing arts center.

A Newtown resident for nearly 20 years, she originally hails from Long Island, where her passion for the world of theater ignited at a young age.

“In high school, I did theater and was a theater geek,” Ms Spiegel said joyously, as she reminisced about her first taste of what it was like to be on stage.

She not only acted, but she sang and danced in many school productions. Those formative years left such an impression on her that, to this day, she still remembers all the words and the music for the productions of The King and I, Godspell, and Oklahoma! that she was in.

Her talent for performing led her to audition for and be accepted into the theater program at SUNY Binghamton University in upstate New York. While she was there pursuing her craft, she says she had an “epiphany.”

She discovered, she said, that performing was not meant to be her path in life. She attributes that decision to saving her years of struggling trying to make it in New York City. She went on to graduate with a degree in anthropology and made the transition back home after graduation.

Looking back on the foundation her past theater experience gave her, Ms Spiegel said, “theater gives you confidence to face the world.”

She used that confidence to land a variety of jobs after college, which began with working as an activities therapist in mental health at Kings Park Psychiatric Center.

When she married her husband, Michael, who was a medical student at the time, she found herself moving to Hartford with him, so he could intern and do his residency at St Francis Hospital. There, she became a spokesperson for Capital Region Educational Council and was in charge of giving tours.

Later, when her husband took a fellowship at Brown University for rheumatology and they moved to Rhode Island, she worked for G Fox & Co., demonstrating the scarf collection for buyers and then managing its jewelry department.

The next chapter of her life came when her husband got a job as a physician in Danbury and the couple moved to Newtown. It was then that she started doing voiceover gigs and was a film programmer for Bethel Film Festival.

“Life is a journey,” Ms Spiegel said about her diverse background experience leading to her job at The Palace Danbury. “One thing always leads to another.”

Her love of theater helped a great deal for instilling in her the ability to try new things and be willing to adapt. After taking some years off to be a stay-at-home mom to sons Ben and Sam, Ms Spiegel got back into the workforce, creating an international cookbook for the downtown Danbury YMCA. It was there she would take to trek down Danbury’s bustling Main Street and pass by The Palace Danbury.

At the time it was closed, but — like many — she was captivated by the nearly 100-year-old building’s facade. When the theater reopened years later, and she began going to shows there, she knew immediately it was where she wanted to be.

“I came on as a volunteer at first,” Ms Spiegel explained. She wanted to prove to the people there that she would not only work hard, but that she would be an asset for the theater.

She came on as The Palace Danbury’s Communications Director then moved up to Managing Director, where she is now in charge of many facets of the venue’s day-to-day business needs.

She says her responsibilities include everything from being the “talent buyer, film programmer, contract negotiator, audience builder, and campaign creator” to being the one to expertly change light bulbs and order pizza.

The Shows That Go On

“The goal is to bring entertainment here,” Ms Spiegel said. Ultimately, it is her job to find what works and what does not work for the venue. Under her management, she has booked sold out shows with artists like Judy Collins and Art Garfunkel.

She grew up listening to both artists on her records and knew all the words to their songs. Hearing them live at The Palace Danbury, and getting to meet them, left a “very special” and lasting impression on her, she said.

Another one of her favorite musicians to grace The Palace Danbury’s theater was Mary Bridget Davies, who received a Tony nomination for her role playing the legendary Janis Joplin in the Broadway show A Night With Janis Joplin.

“She’s a belter,” Ms Spiegel recalled, thinking back to Ms Davies’ strong singing ability.

Not only has she seen many music icons grace The Palace Danbury’s stage, but she has also been able to showcase the talented acts of many people she went to high school with.

“Forty years later, I’m still [in] touch with my fellow thespians,” Ms Spiegel said.

Due to the ability for people to so easily reconnect through social media, she has been able to invite some of her former theater classmates to perform at The Palace Danbury.

“What’s cool is we got to follow our passion,” Ms Spiegel said.

Her top three dream artists she hopes will one day make their way to The Palace Danbury to perform are: American blues singer-songwriter Bonnie Raitt; Tony winner Patti LuPone, from the original Broadway production of Evita; and the band from movie The Commitments. The later of which, Ms Spiegel is happy to report, is coming to The Palace Danbury on Saturday, November 3.

Known as “The Stars From The Commitments,” the act will feature original cast members and musicians from the 1991 award-winning film The Commitments.

“It’s going to be a great show,” Ms Spiegel said. “It’s one of my top three, so I’m pretty excited.”

Those interested in visiting The Palace Danbury next month can look forward to the Ciclismo Classico’s Bike Travel Film Festival on Friday, June 8; New Orleans soul-blues-rock group The Subdudes on Friday, June 15; as well as the Jesus Christ Superstar Singalong Experience on Friday, June 22, that will have actor Ted Neeley — who played the original Jesus Christ character in the 1979 film — at the screening.

For more information about The Palace Danbury, at 165 Main Street, visit thepalacedanbury.com; follow on Facebook; or call 203-794-9944. Tickets can be purchased online or by phone, and there is free parking available during showtimes. The Palace Danbury is also available to be rented out for private parties. To join the mailing list for the theater’s newsletter, e-mail info@thepalacedanbury.com.

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