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Friday, January 13, 2012

Live Theater Coming To Main Street in Wakefield

Soon to be a performing arts theatre
by Erin Tiernan, SK

The Contemporary Theater Company announced plans this week to transform the old Hera Gallery into a 90-seat performance hall by summer.

South Kingstown’s traveling theater troupe has found a home on Main Street, but its artistic director said the nonprofit group would continue performances around South County.

Although the space has yet to be named, The Contemporary Theater will breathe life into the old Hera Gallery located at 323 Main St., transforming it into a 90-seat performance hall complete with a stage, “cozy” lobby, entryway, workspace and restrooms by July.

“More than anything we have had at the Commons, this is going to generate a different theater-going atmosphere,” said Christopher J. Simpson, artistic director. “We will have more seats, and with our own space it will allow us to run shows longer.”

Construction won’t start for another couple of weeks, but Simpson said The Contemporary Theater is ready for the curtain to rise on its downtown stage. The first show will hit the stage on July 6 with the Rhode Island premiere of the farce “Is He Dead?” by Mark Twain. Comedies “The Complete Works of William Shakespeare (Abridged)” and “The Foreigner” will round out the summer season at 323 Main St. Additional plays and related arts programs will continue year-round, for more information on the theater’s schedule, click here.

The theater’s renovation is part of a larger improvement effort by the owners of Phil’s Restaurant, Carl and Kenneth Tetzner, who own several buildings on the block. Already the ramshackle red trolley that served as an art gallery in recent years was torn down. The Tetzners promise to revive the corner, adding on to the family-style restaurant and building new retail space.

“In a lot of ways that is why we are so excited,” said Simpson. “This is the single biggest thing we’ve done and it let’s us be a part of the revival on Main Street.”

Renovations to the theater will not expand the single-story 1,800 square-foot building’s footprint, but it will allow the company to expand class offerings. To accommodate its growing membership and demand for work space and lessons, the company will retain its space in South County Commons. The theater moved to its first permanent performing space at 50 South County Commons Way in April 2011.

Born in 2005 out of a collaborative of young performing artists, the company grew to put on 33 plays and gain more than 100 members in its seven years. Today the theater travels for annual performances in Narragansett and South Kingstown and offers dozens of performance and fine arts-based classes every year ranging from free day-long workshops to weeks-long courses. For more information on classes, click here.

Simpson would not discuss the cost of renovations on Tuesday, but told supporters to stay tuned for the unveiling of the company’s fund-raising campaign to help pay for the theater.

Republished with permission from South Kingstown