SOUTH KINGSTOWN, RI – The contemporary theater company has expanded its community-focused entertainment and performing arts complex in a move that shows an ongoing commitment to South County and downtown Wakefield.
The theatre, located at 327 Main Street, completed a $500,000 expansion project adding a new rehearsal room, classroom, foyer with patio, audience balconies and an expansion from the patio.
“The expansion was critically important to our operations – we just lacked the space we needed to adequately produce the shows and classes the community wanted,” said Chris Simpson, who founded the theater during his college years and remains a power behind the many forces in harmony. to realize this great project.
This small, growing community theater is transforming into a cultural hive in downtown Wakefield. Each week, artists fly into the hive and put on slick performances at the CTC that continue to draw hundreds of people each week.
Without CTC, some artists might still struggle to find their “home” to perform and the camaraderie of others. Most take on second jobs to support their acting careers, which rarely pays a salary.
In 2012, the theater announced it was moving into the Hera Gallery location. It opened with a renovated nearly 100-seat theater, a new lobby and entrance in addition to a new workspace and restrooms.
The announcement came after seven years of the nomadic CTC, which had performed at more than a dozen venues in South Kingstown and Narragansett.
At the time, CTC founder Simpson said, “This new theater puts us in the heart of our vibrant downtown neighborhood while providing space for us to grow. The fact that Wakefield is a great walking community is something we have been looking at for some time. When the opportunity presented itself, it seemed like a no-brainer.
Today, he and Joe Viele, executive director of the Southern Rhode Island Chamber of Commerce, see it as a worthwhile investment.
“Each increase in these commercial businesses on Main Street,” Viele said last year, “and brings new life. Businesses that have seen the transformation and success of bringing this Main Street to life build on it, like contemporary theatre.
In an interview this week, Simpson discussed the needs and value of this new project.
How does this building advance contemporary theater and its development as community theatre?
Before this project, we only had one more room beyond the 100-seat theater that everyone is familiar with. We could hold classes or rehearsals there, but if there was a show going on in the theater or on the patio, other programs had to stop to allow the rehearsal room to function more like a dressing room and a “green room”.
We had to integrate all the classes into off evenings and organize future rehearsals around shows and lessons.
We spend more time working on a show than performing it and there was nowhere for any of that to happen. Now we can increase the quality of our shows, offer more classes and more flexible schedules, and offer our actors and designers more space and flexibility in rehearsing their shows. It supports the invisible side of what we do.
Can you briefly describe what this building has now that contemporary theater did not have in the past?
Above all, we have the new Jean Maxon Carpenter rehearsal room to accommodate our overcrowded rehearsal rooms and classrooms. We also have the new balconies, which create space for 49 of the best possible seats on our patio stage, which enhance our Shakespeare on the Saugatucket, Ocean State Improv Festival and Black and Funny Improv Festival and our Afterglow concerts.
They have already proven extremely popular for the June and July events, and they open up a whole world of new viewing and production possibilities. This space also allows us to serve our outdoor events with a beautiful new bar, fully stocked with local beers and wines, and a wide variety of mixed drinks and non-alcoholic options.
Why was it important to undertake this project in relation to the grand plan that you and others have put in place for your theatre?
This expansion is part of a larger vision of how we can further transform our property and our community.
We felt it was necessary to act during the pandemic to start the first phase of this vision. We urgently needed more rehearsal and classroom space, and we really wanted to improve the terrace space as our outdoor shows were our lifeline during the pandemic and are a big part of our plans for the future.
We also had to show our community and supporters that we were always looking to the future, planning and building a better future, even in the darkest times. It gave us something to look forward to and gave our community a visible sign that the future could still be bright.
What is the estimated total cost of this building, including any land purchases you would have had to make and all associated construction costs?
The project was ultimately a $540,000 project. State support provided the initial $75,000, and the Champlin Foundation was the largest contributor with $119,000. The rest was funded with private support from local individuals and small foundations, in our usual grassroots style.
How was this building constructed? Did other members of the ensemble help?
There are several capable builders and contractors in our theater community, and it has always been our intention to use volunteer labor for several aspects of the project.
However, we did not expect the price of wood to triple in the first six months after groundbreaking, nor that a shortage of contractors would force our general contractor to pull out of the project to concentrate on its core business, the construction of houses.
Due to material costs and a sudden vacancy, we decided to roll up our sleeves and handle the project ourselves.
Fortunately, the community of skilled contractors, ambitious retirees, and members of the rapid study ensemble were able to come together to work with the many skilled craftsmen to complete the building.