Monday, January 18, 2010

Hartford Stage to Begin Expansion

The Two-Phase Project Will Commence This June

Hartford Stage has announced that the Tony Award-winning theatre will break ground this June on the first part of a two-phase renovation and expansion of the theatre’s Church Street, Hartford facility.

Designed by Mitchell Kurtz Architect, PC, the theatre company’s renovation and expansion project will revitalize the 33-year-old building by addressing infrastructure issues, modernizing and expanding its stage capabilities to meet the demands of modern stagecraft, providing greater accessibility in public areas and back stage facilities and expanding and renovating the theatre’s two lobbies. Phase One construction will commence June 1, 2010, and is expected to be completed by mid-September, 2010.

“We are so thrilled to be breaking ground this June, after years of extensive planning” said Artistic Director Michael Wilson. “Our community, loyal audiences, and extraordinary artists deserve to work in a theatre that is accessible and provides the modern facilities needed to make their experience at Hartford Stage as uplifting and inspiring as possible.”

Given the current economic climate and its effect on fundraising in recent months, the theatre’s Board of Directors determined that it would be prudent to divide the renovation project into two phases and fund construction with available cash as money is raised.

Phase One of the project represents a $4 million investment into the local economy, including construction jobs, and the purchase of materials and equipment. The first phase of construction, primarily will address four priority areas:

1. Improvements to the theatre’s accessibility for both audience and artists. The stage floor will be raised to make handicap seating more accessible; ramps will no longer be necessary to reach seats. A backstage dressing room will be constructed at stage level to allow improved accessibility for actors.
2. Audience amenities. This will include relocating and expanding the public restroom facilities. Restrooms will expand into space in the MAT garage, the city-owned parking facility adjacent to the theatre, which in turn will allow enlarged space in the theatre’s lower lobby to alleviate congestion. The new, accessible, restroom facilities will more than double the number of stalls in both the women's and men’s rooms.
3. Infrastructure improvements. This initiative will include new HVAC Equipment to improve comfort for patrons and artists. Electrical systems will be cleaned and refurbished, and the roof will be repaired.
4. Production enhancements. This includes new theatre lighting equipment, a new theatre audio system, and an expanded trap room which will allow for openings anywhere on the stage. The new trap system will feature easy conversion from thrust to proscenium houses, allowing for greater flexibility, more artistic opportunities and improved sight lines for the audience.

For the past three years, the theatre company has been engaged in a campaign entitled “Act Now for the Future” to raise funds for the renovation project and to increase the theatre’s endowment to support future operations. Approximately $10.5 million has been raised to date, of which $4 million is allocated for Phase One of the renovation project. Of the remaining funds raised, $2 million has been expended on design, planning, project management and administration of the campaign over the past three years; and the balance is earmarked for the theatre’s Endowment Fund and cash reserves. Completion of the entire project is targeted by the fall of 2013, prior to the celebration of the theatre’s 50th Anniversary.

The theatre will hold a series of audience forums so that community and audience members may learn more about the project. The forums will take place on Saturday, Feb. 6 at 4:30 pm, Wednesday, Feb. 10 at 4 pm and Monday, March 1 at 6 pm. If you have any questions, please contact the Box Office at (860) 527-5151.

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Lauren Yarger with playwright Alfred Uhry at the Mark Twain House. Photo: Jacques Lamarre)

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