After years of wandering, the Academy Players of Rhode Island have landed, with both a headquarters and a performance space that offer the theater company stability from which to grow.
And grow they have.
The group has its own space in Providence, on the town line with Johnston just off Hartford Avenue. They have a “black box” theater there for small performances, as well as administrative offices. Their larger performances are at North Providence High School, which has proved to be a very hospitable venue for them.
“Almost, Maine,” will play for six performances starting Friday, March 22, in the Black Box theater, funny and sweet story about relationships.
“Our black box is intimate, holds up to 70 people, snacks and refreshments and romantic and quaint atmosphere.
The musical “Into the Woods” ran earlier in March at North Providence High School. In return for the use of the auditorium there, Academy Players allows school groups to run concessions for the shows.
“We have been working towards getting more settled,” said the group’s CEO and director, Rita Maron. “We’re much more stable now. Our relationship with North Providence has really helped.”
Moran is particularly proud of the Stage Door Project, an effort to help nonprofit organizations it designates for each performance.
“We sat down and we said, how are we going to bring back this community theater? How are we going to be different?” Maron said. They came up with the Stage Door Project – “a community theater that gives back to the community.
“We have raised over $25,000 in the last three years for the American Cancer Society, Relay for Life, Cystic Fibrosis, Adoption R.I., R.I. ARC, Special Olympic Ballroom, American Red Cross–Sandy Relief Fund, and so many more, local and national,” said Moran. “We are so proud of the work we do and the performers take a different type of ‘passion’ when they perform, they know that their performance not only pleases the audience but goes towards such great causes.”
It’s a long way from the uncertainties of four years ago, in East Greenwich. At that point, they had produced “Pippin” at East Greenwich High School and had to pay $2,600 in rental fees. The East Greenwich School Department raised rental fees for outside groups significantly in 2009 to offset their own budget cuts and the School Committee was unwilling to lower the fees for the company going forward.
In early 2010, the Academy Players cut its season short and made the decision to look for performance space beyond East Greenwich. They had used the Varnum Armory for a smaller production of “Our Town” but that venue wasn’t ideal for the theater group. Former venues were no longer available either. Swift Gym was made into Swift Community Center and its big stage was removed. The Greenwich Odeum had closed in 2008, lacking money to make needed safety improvements.
“It was dying in East Greenwich,” recalled Maron. She knows there is some anger in EG over their departure. But she said it was a survival move. “We saved it. We didn’t run out. We saved it.”
She added, “All I want to do is perform and have a house some place.”
If you are interested in attending a performance or learning more, click here for the Academy Players of R.I. website.