Lisa Condit, director of marketing and pr for The Hanover Theatre, spoke with Olivia D’Ambrosio Scanlon, managing director at the BrickBox Theater and artistic director of the brand new THT Repertory. Read on for highlights from the interview, or listen to the full interview below. Then tune in to WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Lisa: Olivia’s been in the city for about a year now getting everything squared away for that new smaller venue, the BrickBox Theater. And breaking news again right here, we got approval for something very special. We all know we haven’t been able to see a live performance indoors around here.
Olivia: It’s very difficult right now, rightfully so, to have a live performance. Actors’ Equity Association is the name of the union that represents professional stage actors and stage managers. They have very strict regulations. So, I put my thinking cap on, and said, “How can we do this?” I thought about the space and about the Halloween season, and I thought, “Wouldn’t it be fun if we had very small, intimate performances of two Edgar Allan Poe short stories?” The BrickBox is big enough that we can have the 25 person limit for indoor events established by Governor Charlie Baker, and it’s also big enough that audience members can be far apart from each other, and I, as the performer, can be far apart from them.
We have a 15-page safety protocol. We also were reviewed by a specialist at UMass Memorial. Actors’ Equity approved us as the first producer in Massachusetts, and one of the first in the country, to have indoor live performance. Each little individual group, you get your own cabaret table. I’m also directing and performing the piece.
Lisa: I think that people, I know I am very interested, because it’s fresh, it’s new. I think there are only 10 other theatre companies that I saw on Actors’ Equity site that have approval.
I’m proud of how talented and smart and fun you are. I was oozing about this to my workout buddies, and they said, “What is a repertory?”
Olivia: We have the big Hanover Theatre on Main Street that everyone knows and loves and, I think, understands is more of a venue that hosts other performing arts events that are coming through town. We’re starting The Hanover Theatre Repertory as an initiative where we create our own work in and for Worcester. We are going to primarily use the BrickBox Theater around the corner as the venue where that work is shared with audiences. A repertory, that word in particular, is an Americanization of the word “repertoire.” Companies would have a repertoire of shows that they kept. You could go and see show A on Thursday night, but then you could go see show B on Friday night, and they would rotate this repertoire all throughout a season, and generally the same actors would have different roles throughout all of the shows. That’s not necessarily a common model any more, but that idea of the repertory company, of local artists making art for their community, is very much still alive and is what we hope to capture with this initiative.
Lisa: It’s so inspirational and motivating, as well. It’s that creative energy, and that ability to problem solve and bring it to the people. First, we really answered that need for a venue like the main stage at The Hanover Theatre, where we could bring Broadway tours and the big names, not as a stadium, but as a smaller experience. Then, the conservatory. Now, it’s THT Rep. It’s so cool because it allows us to get back to some of our mission and vision work. We’re committed to being great leaders and neighbors in the cultural community and the business community in central New England.
Olivia: In the nature of how Worcester works, there are different organizations working together to bring the BrickBox space to fruition. The BrickBox is in the style of a black box theater. It tends to be more flexible, where you can move the seating and performers around. The reason we’re calling ours a BrickBox is purely because it’s an old industrial space. We wanted to leave the beautiful character of the exposed brick. It’s located downtown at 20 Franklin Street in the Jean McDonough Arts Center. JMAC is an initiative of the Worcester Cultural Coalition. They identified the need for a performance space where they could do their work. They hired The Hanover Theatre to manage the BrickBox. The Hanover Theatre is also a member of the Worcester Cultural Coalition and wants to use the space as a creative venue, so that’s where THT Rep comes in as the brand under which we’re going to produce our own creative work.
Lisa: The great thing is, look at all of the people who are able to get involved at a much more accessible level, too. We sometimes have struggled because we want to have some work come into the main stage theatre that we know there’s not a lot of commercial benefit to. We’re not going to be able to cover the expenses of that programming coming in. It’s still important and should be seen. The BrickBox gives us such as great opportunity, not only in that aspect, but also for our conservatory students and THT Rep.