Curtain about to rise on Hanover Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts
May 29, 2016 : Telegram & Gazette, by Richard Duckett
The Hanover Theatre for the Performing Arts likes its new neighbor so much it's throwing a party.
Call it a Theater District Block Party as a ribbon cutting ceremony to celebrate the opening of 551 Main St. right next to the theater is scheduled for 4:30 p.m. June 2 at the Francis Carroll Plaza and will be followed by music, food, a beer garden and street performers.
The purchase and development of 551 Main St. has been done by The Hanover Theatre itself as part of its $10 million "Theatre District Campaign."
The building will include The Hanover Theatre Conservatory for the Performing Arts, dedicated to musical theater-related programs for students; administrative offices for the theater's personnel; space to be leased for a ground-floor restaurant; and function rooms for public and internal Hanover Theatre events. The conservatory has been "made possible by The Eppinger Family" (Frederick H. Eppinger is retiring next month as president and chief executive of The Hanover Insurance Group). The naming of rooms and/or facilities in 551 Main St. in recognition of donors/supporters will be officially announced June 2.
Hard hats were in evidence inside 551 Main St. last week. Troy Siebels, president and CEO of The Hanover Theatre, said such a scene is nothing new just before ribbon cutting/opening deadline, noting that something similar could be seen just before the theater opened in 2008.
He was there then, as was Meghan Montaner, director of education at The Hanover Theatre. "It's been a long time coming," Montaner said of the conservatory.
The Hanover Theatre's summer teen program focusing on music, drama and dance will be in its eighth year when it gets underway in July. The first year there were 40 students, Montaner said.
With the opening of 551 Main St. the theater will be also be offering summer programs for children (ages 6 to 8) and pre-teens (9-12) for the first time. Because of demand, there will be two teen sessions (culminating in performances of "Shrek" on The Hanover Theatre mainstage), and the total number of students on board this summer will be between 125 and 150, Montaner said.
The year-round conservatory will open in the fall and begin with offering 12 to 15 classes a semester for an age-group spanning child through adulthood, Montaner said.
The closings of the Performing Arts School of Worcester and Worcester Foothills Theatre Company (which had an acting conservatory) in recent years, along with cuts in school programs, has left a void for young people interested in theater performance, Montaner said.
"Teens just want this so bad. We're ready to serve that need."
Downtown in a theater district is a good place to do that, Montaner said, recalling that she was a student at PASOW on nearby High Street. "I thought it was great to be coming to a downtown area. It's important to have students in the downtown."
The conservatory at 551 Main St. is in the basement and includes two adjoining studios, separated by a removable wall. The studios can be used for classes, including master classes. Touring productions visiting The Hanover Theatre sometimes offer master classes, "and we haven't able to take advantage of that," Montaner said. The space can also be used as a small black box theater for recitals and performances.
Another studio, "Studio 2," is envisioned as ideal for acting, movement and dance classes. The studios have sprung hardwood floors, ballet barres and mirrors. "Movement is an important part of theater," Montaner said. "We are not looking to compete with local dance studios in the area. We want to offer something different."
Meanwhile, the conservatory will have a Tech Lab, where students can learn about lighting with equipment available as well as drafting tables to teach the basics of lighting and scenic design, and a Costume Lab, which will have sewing machines and craft tables and classes in sewing, costume design and prop construction.
Three soundproof practice rooms equipped with keyboards can be used for solo vocal and acting lessons. There will also be a Resource Room that includes a library of scripts, and a Wardrobe Room, which will allow the Hanover Theatre to begin renting its inventory to local area theater groups and productions.
On the ground floor "we're leaving open right now. We're seeking a restaurant," Siebels said. At 6,400 square feet, the size for the restaurant is a big space, he said. "There's a lot of interest. We're very confident we'll find somebody but we're very committed to finding the right fit."
On the second floor, two function rooms — a larger one and a smaller one — can be used separately or together and will extend back to connect to The Hanover Theatre's lobby. Also on the second floor, The Hanover Theatre staff will move into open office space from its current cramped premises in the basement of the theater.
"We'll be very excited to see the light of day," Siebels said. "We've been frugal with it, but anything is a vast improvement."
Supporters of the 551 Main St. project have said they hope that The Hanover Theatre and the theater district area downtown will grow to become a neighborhood hub of cultural activity in Worcester.
Among officials expected to be on hand June 2 are U.S. Rep. James P. McGovern (D-Worcester), Worcester City Manager Edward M. Augustus Jr., and Marty Jones, president and CEO of MassDevelopment.
While some work at 551 Main St. will be ongoing over the next few weeks, tours of the building will be offered during the June 2 celebrations. "We'll be ready to move in," Siebels said.
For more information, visit www.thehanovertheatre.org
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