Stadium Theatre set to expand with new 'Marquee Room'
Stadium Theatre set to expand with new 'Marquee Room'
WOONSOCKET - A vision five years in the making is set to spring to life next month with the grand opening of a new space at The Stadium Theatre Performing Arts Centre dedicated to the popular venue's more intimate performances, meet and greets, after-school education programs and VIP receptions.
The Marquee Room, a 3,000-square-foot space situated just above the theater's notable neon sign and box office, will serve as the new setting for cabarets, comedians, acoustic performances and one-act plays. The space will include its own small stage, bar, warming kitchen for catered food, private bathrooms and lounge area, plus 30 cafe-style tables. Through a new private entrance, guests will access the main theater.
"What I'm most excited about is the private receptions for our sponsors," said Cathy Levesque, executive director and chief executive officer of the The Stadium.
Prior to performances, up to 25 guests to a private reception will be able to enjoy a full bar and appetizers in the intimate and classically decorated space, boasting a chandelier, marble and granite restrooms, and a comfortable lounge area. They can then enter the theater and find their seats through a door at the far left in the rear of the grand hall's balcony. During intermission, an access card will allow them back into the room, where they can avoid lines at the bars, enjoy entertainment on the grand piano, and socialize. The room will have its own handicap access via an elevator in the alleyway, a television by the bar displaying what's going on in the theater, and a private coat room.
"It will be very accommodating for VIPs, and the best thing is being able to offer this intimate space to those who currently perform with the Stadium Theatre. This is the perfect spot for a murder/mystery. It's the perfect spot for acoustic guitar players."
The space was purchased in 2008 as part of the nonprofit venue's acquisition of the "arcade," the rooms along the long entryway leading into the theater's lobby, now used for office space.
"This was acquired to secure this crucial area where tickets are sold, and expand the programming and education departments," said Levesque.
Before the purchase, The Stadium rented the area from the owner of the adjoining "Stadium Theatre Building," offices built by industrialist Arthur Darman along with the theater itself in 1926, but which is now a separate property. The space was last occupied by Keough Kirby Insurance Agency, but Levesque said the site has been vacant for as long as she can remember.
"It was a beat up, big old office space," said Levesque of the area prior to the start of construction on the Marquee Room more than a year ago. She gives most of the credit for much of the past year's work to Technical Director and Building Manager Dennis Tancrell, as well as Dan Peloquin, an architect and longtime member of the board of directors.
Levesque's vision for the room began with a phone call years ago bringing good news: First Universalist Church was donating a baby grand piano to the theater.
"I was doing the marketing here at the time," said Levesque. "We didn't even own this space yet."
The now-executive director said she knew then that she wanted the piano because "someday" the foundation would own the space upstairs.
"That was the first piece up here and this place was a mess," said Tancrell.
At the time, the theater's office space didn't even have heat, and she says many of her co-workers thought she was crazy. "You have to start with a vision and you have to just believe it," she said. "It was a dream for more than five years."
Since then, staff at the theater, which is run by the nonprofit and all-volunteer foundation, has worked to secure donations and grant funding for the room. Virtually everything in the new area will be set up with the help of volunteers and sponsors, from kitchen appliances to painted light fixtures. By the time the Marquee Room is complete, Levesque said she'll have hundreds of donors to thank.
"It's a community within a community with shared civic pride and I am honored to work beside each and every one of them," she said.
The opening marks a needed expansion for the successful venue, which was occupied more than 400 times last year alone, with performances, after-school educational programs, theater camp, private and corporate functions, as well as rehearsals.
"We sell out all of our lobby shows, so we could easily do double that and then some," said Levesque. For years, the theater has met its need for additional space by borrowing stages from the neighboring school, Beacon Charter High School for the Arts.
For the new Marquee Room, workers had to demolish a wall and add a stairway to create the theater entry, then empty and redesign the entire area, from floor to ceiling. The mammoth project was spearheaded by Tancrell, who donated hours of demo work and painting, with the help of Peloquin.
Food at the theater is typically donated by River Falls Restaurant, and Levesque is quick to announce that she does not intend to compete with local restaurants. The hall will not be available for events like bridal showers or weddings, a decision that she points out adds to the exclusivity.
"The intent is not to utilize this room as a banquet hall," said Levesque. "As long as I'm breathing, it just doesn't make sense."
The room will be offered as a rental add on, to those who book the theater for shows, recitals and corporate events, and can also be utilized as an annex dressing room space.
The final touches, including furnishings and an elevator lift, are now being installed and Levesque said she's hopeful the room will be open in the next two to three weeks.
"The goal is to add to this, and make this more successful, and more productive, and filled with life. It helps the city prosper, and we all prosper and we make a better community," Levesque said.