Colonial Theatre to expand Performing Arts Center

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KEENE, N.H. — The Board of Directors of the Colonial Theatre has announced its intention to transform the 95-year-old live performance and film venue into a world-class Colonial Performing Arts Center, offering expanded opportunities and greater accessibility to performers, audiences and students.

"The Colonial is a proven success story in advancing the arts and economic prosperity of our region. This project positions the Colonial for its second century as a Keene Main Street gem, serving the Monadnock Region," said Abigail Abrash Walton, Board chair. "When our vision is completed in late 2021, this enhanced performing arts center will attract the best artists, exceed patrons' expectations, and deliver even better arts programming for current and new audiences."

Slated to begin in Spring 2020, the two-year project will include extensive renovations and expansions to the theater's inner and outer lobbies, providing greater accessibility to performers, audiences and students. The main theater will feature a spacious ticket lobby, a patron lounge and a dedicated concessions area, as well as elevators to all floors, improvements to restrooms, and new administrative offices.

The project also features crucial enhancements to the stage and backstage area, including new rigging and staging technologies, creation of an artist lounge area and new, contemporary dressing rooms - all of which theater representatives say will help attract world-class performers and performances.

"Our programming has historically been defined by the physical limitations of a theater which was originally designed for vaudeville productions and film," said Alec Doyle, executive director of The Colonial Theatre. "Production and technological demands of theatrerperformances in 2019 are dramatically different from 95 years ago - and today we're simply unable to host certain performances," he said. "That all changes with this exciting project."

In addition to amenities, production capabilities and accessibility improvements, the project includes energy-efficiency enhancements — such as new photovoltaic solar panels, all new primary heating and air conditioning systems, replacement of all exterior windows and doors, and LED source lighting upgrades.

Leadership also shared a vision for a "second stage" as part of the Colonial Performing Arts Center. Doyle said plans for the second venue have not yet been finalized - but noted that it would be a more intimate, flexible, multipurpose event venue tailored for emerging artists, local performers, educational programming, and most importantly, artists who appeal to a younger demographic. He said more information will be forthcoming.

Because the details of the project haven't yet been finalized, Colonial Theatre representatives declined to identify the total cost of the project.

"Be assured that there are specific plans in the works," said Walton. "We're also in the organizational phase of a capital campaign, which we're confident will allow us to realize this exciting vision for downtown Keene and the Monadnock Region: a world-class, multi-use venue that provides our community with additional education and performance space, and enhances our ability to engage, inspire and connect people through the performing arts," she said.

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