With the box office set to open on September 4, nearly a year after announcing their move to Warwick, the debut of The Gamm Theatre’s new home is rapidly approaching.
“It certainly has a lot of potential for something beyond the usual,” is how Artistic Director Tony Estrella introduces the Warwick space, formerly the home of the Ocean State Theatre. Further into the building, Estrella describes all their new amenities: from multi-stall bathrooms and parking to administrative offices and studios.
Inside the actual theater, they’ve removed the proscenium arch and built the main stage out. For Gamm shows, they’ll curtain off the rest of the space to create a bigger version of their famous black box. The rest of the space beyond the curtain will be saved as an opportunity for other artists or organizations to rent for their events. “What’s important is that in recreating the box, we keep that same intimacy, but as we grow, the artists and audience will be more comfortable, and we’ve got more volume,” says Estrella.
These expanded dimensions will add more depth and height to the space, allowing for more creative freedom when it comes to set design. “Our designers have been brilliant about overcoming the limitations of the Pawtucket box, but this is giving them a little more room to make their visions happen,” says Estrella. “That’s going to be the biggest change onstage.”
Oliver Dow, Managing Director, discusses some of the other changes they’ve made, including the addition of a lighting grid. “It’s a fantastic building with a lot of ability to grow in years to come,” he says. On the upper floors, they discovered unfinished rooms that will be converted into rehearsal space. “A lot of the big work was done, so most of what we had to do was finish it.”
The team is also on a tough deadline, with the opening their first show, Night of the Iguana, looming on October 11. Despite this, they’re both excited for the opening. “I’m most looking forward to the new experience, the challenge, the ability to give our artists what they need, and having our audience see the space,” Dow says. “Really, more than anything, it’s what happens on stage that really matters.”
Looking to Season 34, The Gamm has planned a full range of riveting shows to play in the new space, including one national premiere and one New England premiere. “Thematically, we discuss issues and things that are happening in society,” Estrella says. “Right now, there’s a lot of concern about politics, and people are asking ‘How do we get through this?’ So all of the stories are about what happens when a crisis hits.”
Estrella hopes that the whole season galvanizes and uplifts viewers, despite the heavy subjects. “You always want to give audiences a chance to process their lives,” Estrella says. “Art is a generative act; I always come out of a great production, no matter what it is, feeling inspired.”
As for Dow, the performances remain a light at the end of a long journey. “We have much more work to do as we go on, but I look forward to our audience falling in love with it as we have.”
The Gamm Theatre
1245 Jefferson Boulevard, Warwick