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In its heydey The Stadium Theater was the hub for entertainment in downtown Woonsocket. Vacant and deteriorating for years, a group of volunteers helped bring the building back to life in 2001. With a vibrant lineup of concerts, community theater performances and educational programs, theater officials have turned their attention to a new project: the renovation of an adjacent 30,000-square-foot building dubbed The Stadium Theater Conservatory that will provide much-needed space for artists. Jim Hummel takes us inside.
For more information about the Stadium Theatre, click here.
Announcer: ``Ladies and Gentlemen, welcome to The Stadium Theater Performing Arts Center. Wwould you please welcome to the stage: the Everly Brothers Experience featuring the Zbed brothers and The Bird Dogs band.’’
Last weekend The Stadium Theater in Woonsocket was a busy place - as it is most weekends these days. Friday night it was a tribute band on a national tour making its only stop in Rhode Island.
Saturday night country music singer Sara Evans played to a packed house - all 1,088 seats in what is both a spacious and intimate setting.
The Stadium - as most call it - will hold 175 events this year alone, up from 100 annually just five years ago. They range from concerts like these, to community theater productions, o children’s performances, like this one that was the culmination of a week-long theater camp during April school vacation week. The shows are as different as Arlo Guthrie and Ed Asner.
Levesque: ``Our shows are constantly changing, our expansion is constantly changing and if you are not changing you will die.’’
Cathy Levesque knows. She became the CEO and executive director of the Stadium Theater Performing Arts Center 15 years ago, working as its marketing director before that. She has seen a total transformation of the 91-year-old building, which when it opened in 1926 had three shows a day - every day.
Levesque: ``It was the place to go for newsreels, for vaudeville, full orchestra, Arthur Fielder and the Pops performed here, it was the place to be, the place to go.’’
But when the multiplex cinemas came the crowds disappeared and the building fell into disrepair.
Levesque: ``It was covered in taupe paint, the seats were torn, it was pretty rough. It didn’t look anything like it does today.’’
In the 1990s, a group wanting to resurrect the building held a marathon fundraiser under the familiar marquee, hoping to raise $1,380 - the call letters of a local radio station. It netted $25,000 and the renovation began.