Ashleigh Prince spoke with Troy Siebels, the president and CEO of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts, about construction on the Francis R. Carroll Plaza and more! Read on for highlights from the interview. Tune in to Talk of the Commonwealth with Hank Stolz on WCRN 830AM Fridays at 9 AM and Saturdays at 1 PM for more behind-the-scenes interviews.
Ashleigh: Hello, everyone! Welcome back to Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre. Today, we’re talking to President and CEO of The Hanover Theatre and Conservatory for the Performing Arts, Troy Siebels. Hi, Troy!
Troy: Hi, Ashleigh. Thanks for having me.
Ashleigh: Thank you for coming on. I wanted to have you on today because I know that people have been noticing the construction outside for the past few months; there have been a lot of questions on and offline and I figured you could help to clear some of that up. Of course, you’ve been working very closely with a lot of people on this project, so I just wanted to have you on today to go over what’s new and exciting outside of the theatre.
Troy: Yeah, we’re excited about it. It seems like construction takes forever, but it is moving forward. It’s a city of Worcester project; the city of Worcester is essentially building us a pedestrian plaza right on our front doorstep, which is really exciting. Those who have been here more than three or four years remember the previous plaza that had columns, a colonnade and a little fountain that hadn’t worked for decades. It wasn’t very usable space. They’ve rerouted Southbridge Street to create more space to make this beautiful plaza, which is going to include planting beds with trees, foliage and an outdoor stage that we’re going to program during all the temperate months of the year. There will also be a fountain; it’s not water, but it’s steam or mist.
Ashleigh: Yeah, that is very cool. Let’s start first with the outdoor stage. As someone who’s really excited to see some outdoor entertainment out there, let’s talk a little bit about that and the plan for what we’re going to use it for.
Troy: Yeah, absolutely. We think we’ll use it for several different kinds of things. For the big shows in the theatre, we want to do something on the plaza that relates to the show and brings the experience a step further on the outside. The example I like to use is, if we had Cinderella The Musical, we might put a pumpkin carriage out there so families could take pictures with it on their way in or out. I think it’s all about engagement, so something that would interact with the audience, whether that’s a “thing,” like a carriage, or a “who,” like performers.
Ashleigh: That sounds really great. I think that lends a really great space for outdoor performances. I know that we’ve had some events in the front of the theatre before, but I think this is a whole new stage and a whole new setup. I think people are going to be really excited to see it and to be able to experience it in a whole new way.
Troy: Absolutely. In addition to that, we’re also going to do some programming that is especially for the outside during times when we have shows in the theatre. One evening a week, we might do food trucks out there and music, we might do acoustic music out there at lunch hours trying to get people to come and have lunch on the plaza. I think we’re going to try to be pretty aggressive about it so that as much of the time as possible, there’ll be something going on out there.
Ashleigh: I know that our staff will be really excited to use it on our breaks, have a lovely space to hang out and have some employee bonding time. Let’s talk a little bit about that sculpture. You were talking to us about it before and I thought that it was really interesting, because you said it was it had a connection to a Boston piece.
Troy: The artist that made the sculpture did a piece that is on the Rose Kennedy Greenway in Boston, and it is comprised of some elements that are geometric shapes that are made of this perforated aluminum panel. If you get close to it or move your hand close to it, it shoots out of mist and it makes some chime sounds; we’re going to do something like that here. It looks very different in that it’s a bunch of cylinder columns, and the calliope was invented in Worcester, so it’s supposed to evoke a calliope. Each of them will put out mist and a tone or sound as you get close to it. You can sort of play music by reaching out and touching different columns at different times.
Ashleigh: Yeah, sort of like an interactive piece. That’s very cool. I know that we used to have a piano outside, but I feel like this is a little more fun.
Troy: I think so. It will be something that’s very unique. It’s one-of-a-kind, nothing else like it. I think it will get people to come down and hang out on the plaza because there’s something interesting going on and kids will play with it. It just sort of makes the experience a little more interactive.
Ashleigh: It’s my understanding that this is part of a larger project for the downtown Worcester area. Who are the big players that are helping to pull all this together?
Troy: This work on Carroll Plaza was the brainchild of Ed Augustus, the city manager who just retired last month, as was the whole Main Street Reimagined project. I worked with him, the design department, the engineering department at City Hall, then the artist who did the sculpture and the architect that did the plaza. The whole Main Street Reimagined project is mostly completed; they paved the whole street and restriped it so that there was one line going each direction and a turn lane in the middle. They put bike lanes in and there are cleaner crosswalks and such. Then, they did seating and new trees and sculptures along the sidewalk. If you walk down Main Street, you can see sculptures that sort of represent things that have been invented in Worcester over the years. It’s very cool.
Ashleigh: I like to think back to the history of The Hanover Theatre and I feel like we’ve come quite a long way from those sad gray slabs from when it was when it was just a movie theater and it didn’t have any life to it. I think that The Hanover Theatre has really helped to reinvigorate the street. We started with this and with the FSS area, and expanded with the Conservatory, the JMAC and BrickBox. We’ve come so far and I’m excited to add on to that legacy with this new plaza.
This is the first time that something we’re doing is truly for everybody. The events on the plaza will be free. It’s about being there for the community.Troy Siebels
Troy: That’s never been 100% true before. In the past, the people who benefit are the people who buy tickets to come sit in the seat. This is exciting because it’s much broader.
Ashleigh: I would agree! I know that we’ve been talking in the office about doing a time capsule and having a planted below the slabs on the plaza. When can everyone expect to see everything starting to wrap up when we’re thinking about putting in our time capsule? When do you think that would be?
Troy: I think they’re probably going to finish construction in September or October. Then, we may do a little bit out there in the fall but it’ll be getting cooler out. We’re going to launch something that’s much bigger starting in spring 2023.
Ashleigh: Just in time for a certain milestone anniversary, don’t you think?
Troy: Absolutely, 15 years!
Ashleigh: 15 years and it’s been incredible all along the way for audience members, for staff members and for you. You’ve been here this whole time making sure that the arts is coming to Worcester and really changing the landscape. I’m really excited for what’s in store with this plaza and beyond.
Troy: Yeah, me too. Absolutely.
Ashleigh: Thank you, Troy, for joining us on Behind the Scenes at The Hanover Theatre.
Troy: Happy to be here! Thank you so much, Ashleigh.