The city may have a chance to add a second, smaller theater at Memorial Boulevard School when it renovates the existing auditorium for use as a stage for community plays, concerts and traveling shows.
Consultants said there’s a chance to create a black box theater where the gymnasium is today.
It would have seating – though far less than the auditorium -- and would be used for rehearsals, concerts and some theater, they said.
Mark Hopper, a partner in the Schoenhardt architectural firm in Simsbury, said a black box theater offers more flexible space than the large stage upstairs.
He said that a black box setup would help to make the entire theater “a more viable arts space year-round.”
Bill Clegg, president of the firm, said that making a black box theater part of the overall plan would also make it easier to book events because there would be more options for the use of the space.
For instance, a band could rehearse in the black box theater while a musical is rehearsed on the main stage, he said.
It isn’t clear whether the black box theater idea would add to the cost. It’s possible that including it would allow for a smaller addition on the school and perhaps even save money in the long run.
Hopper said that adding the black box theater and cutting back on rehearsal space in a new addition might lower the overall cost of the project.
But it’s also possible the expense would push up the multi-million tab for the community theater project, officials said.
“It doesn’t make a lot of sense,” said Tom O’Brien, a Board of Education member. “This type of things is nothing we can afford.”
O’Brien called it “ridiculous” to spend time even discussing the option.
But Barbara Pond, another member of the theater committee, said she thinks the black box theater “is a wonderful idea down the road” and perhaps a perfect venue for classical music concerts.
City Councilor Frank Nicastro said the public will eventually make its wishes known and officials will pay heed because of the importance of the issue and the emotional ties the community has to the school building itself.
What’s most important, he said, is to get “the most we can for the buck” without undermining the historical integrity of the structure.
“The perfect thing would be able to do it all,” Nicastro said.
What is a black box theater?
Typically, they are large square rooms with black walls. Seating normally consists of chairs on platforms that can be moved around to fit the needs of a particular show.
The entire arrangement is simple so that it can provide an intimate setting for a small-scale or experimental play, rehearsal or a concert that doesn’t need a larger auditorium.There are hundreds of them around the country, including many attached to schools, because of their utility in providing extra space, relieving some of the burden on what are often tightly scheduled main stages.
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