$4 million renovation opens to public this week with Antony and Cleopatra
By Jeff Cohen
October 06, 2010
Hartford Stage is reopening this week with Shakespeare's Antony and Cleopatra after a five-month, four million dollar renovation. WNPR's Jeff Cohen reports.
The theater started thinking about its future a few years back. It considered moving outside of downtown Hartford. It considered a $40 million expansion.
In the end, Hartford Stage decided to make changes for the sake of the existing theater, as well as for the sake of the theatergoers. That means bigger lobbies and community spaces. That's not easy for a stage built into a downtown parking garage. Managing director Mike Stotts.
"This was really about making sure our art was going to be able to thrive and excel but also that our audiences were going to be comfortable in the space as well."
"I'm Michael Wilson, artistic director at Hartford Stage. This is the thrust configuration that you're looking at right now, which in many ways is modeled after the old Elizabethan court theaters..."
It's the kind of stage that's surrounded on three sides by the audience. The theater's renovation now allows for a proscenium stage setup -- where the audience faces the production from just one side. And it's a changeover that can happen in three hours or less -- saving time and money.
Below the stage is something new, too. Where there used to be garage parking is now what Wilson calls the trap - a big, usable space.
"So this is a huge expansion of the lower depths, if you will. But it's these lower depths that really enable us to create all kinds of theater magic. And it's the old-timey theater magic...They have now been able to put the River Nile in Egypt right down the center of our stage. It's a dramatic kind of visual image and actor's emotion with scenery and lights that we couldn't do before."
So that's a small sense of some of artistic changes. Then there are the more practical ones. Ladies, listen up.
Wilson: This is really what many people say is the pride point of the audience amenities, which is the ladies room, which was really, I think, under-stalled, as they say, Mike.
Stotts: If it's always a hassle to go to the restroom, if the lineups are so long that you're missing the first part of the second act, that's an inducement not to come back.
Coming back is what Wilson and Stotts want folks to do. And, after a summer spent off-site during construction, it's something they're happy to do, too.
"Mike and I can say heartily, 'We're really glad to be home We really love being in downtown Hartford, and we love our Church Street theater. Especially now."