In the ‘50s and ‘60s, West Warwick was an entertainment hotspot filled with dancing, theatre and dining. The Arctic Playhouse, a non-profit theatre, hopes to bring that former glory back to the city.
In early January, Arctic Playhouse founders Jim Belanger, Lloyd Felix and David Vieira and board members Caroline Delaney and Bryan Sawyer received $300,000 from the Rhode Island State Council for the Arts (RISCA) for a new and improved theatre. The new facility, just a few doors down from the current Playhouse, was originally bought last year with a $175,000 donation from neighboring business Centreville Bank.
David says the owners, who formed the Playhouse in 2014, are looking to create a 200-seat theater, a cabaret in the renovated lobby and a multipurpose space for community members to hold events. David and Jim both have ties to the area and decided they wanted to be part of the revitalization of West Warwick by creating a space that the community can use and where it can see affordable theatre.
The owners plan to maintain the character of the 19th-century building, once home to Maxine’s Clothing Shop in the ‘50s, while also giving it a new twist. David admits he loves the new location “because it has such great history and character,” but that it also requires major construction and upgrades. The $300,000 will mostly go towards finishing deconstruction and laying the building’s foundation. The grant will allow the owners to move a main staircase and put in necessary upgrades for electricity, heating and air conditioning.
The Playhouse will continue to fundraise to achieve the full $1.7 million needed to make this new community spot a reality. In the meantime, the show must – and will – go on at their current theatre. 117 Washington Street, West Warwick.