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The Arts

Renovation will reinvent Keene theater

Two-year project will create the Colonial Performing Arts Center

The Board of Directors of the Colonial Theatre 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,” Board Chair Abigail Abrash Walton said in a news release.

Slated to begin in the spring of 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 theater performances in 2019 are dramatically different from 95 years ago — and today we’re simply unable to host certain performances. 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.

Doyle also said plans for a second stage as part of the project haven’t yet been finalized — but said such a venue would be a more intimate, flexible space tailored for emerging artists, local performers, educational programming, and, most importantly, artists who appeal to a younger demographic.

Because the details of the project haven’t yet been finalized, Colonial Theatre representatives declined to identify the total cost of the project. The Colonial is also in the organizational phase of a capital campaign.

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Originally published in The Commons issue #515 (Wednesday, June 19, 2019). This story appeared on page B2.

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