Will Boston's Historic Colonial Theatre Be Turned Into College Dining Hall?

News   Will Boston's Historic Colonial Theatre Be Turned Into College Dining Hall?
 
The Boston Globe reports that the historic Colonial Theatre, Boston's oldest continually-running theatre, one currently owned by Emerson College, may be transformed into a college dining hall and performance space. 

As previously reported on Playbill.com, the Colonial is set to close for at least a year following the conclusion of the Book of Mormon touring production, currently playing at the venue through Oct. 11. Last month, Emerson’s vice president for communications, Andy Tiedemann, told the Globe that "all options are on the table," regarding the theatre's unclear future. "Whatever direction we end up going, any option will make sure that the space can be used for performances."

Outside the Colonial Theatre
Outside the Colonial Theatre

New documents obtained by the Globe suggest that the theatre may be turned into the Colonial Student Center, a plan that would position the Colonial building and adjacent Walker building as the front entrance of Emerson's campus, and home to a cafe and visitor's center.

In a new interview, Emerson president Lee Pelton emphasized to the Globe that the plan is but one of several options and that no final decision has been reached. 

"What drives this in great measure is placemaking and establishing a stronger physical identity for the campus,” Pelton told the newspaper. "The idea is that the visitor center, the Emerson cafe, the Colonial, and other academic and student-life activities on the ground level would provide a stronger and more interesting and more animated mark for the portal that leads you into Emerson."

The news brings to light the recent announcement that Huntington Theatre Company is ending its partnership with Boston University. The Huntington is hoping to find potential partners or buyers who would purchase the theatre and allow the troupe to continue producing shows there. Read more here.  The Colonial Theatre, which opened Dec. 20, 1900, has seen more than its share of theatre history. With 1,700 seats, it is roughly the size of a big Broadway house, and has hosted pre-Broadway tryouts of many legendary hits, including Cole Porter's Anything Goes, the Gershwin brothers' Porgy and Bess, Irving Berlin's Annie Get Your Gun, Rodgers and Hammerstein's Carousel, Jerry Herman's La Cage aux Folles and Stephen Sondheim's Follies and A Little Night Music.

See the Spot Where the Title Song of Oklahoma! Was Written and a Legendary Sondheim Song Was Born.

The stage of the Colonial Theatre is also where Yvonne De Carlo premiered the Sondheim song "I'm Still Here" from Follies on the afternoon of March 13, 1971, while developing the now-celebrated, Tony-winning Broadway musical.

Emerson purchased the Colonial in 2006 and has since leased the venue; Citi Performing Arts Center signed a three-year contract to operate it in 2012. At the end of the contract in October, the theatre will close for some much-needed repairs while its future is determined.

"We knew we had to take a step back. We know the building needs renovation, and we couldn’t renew a lease without doing the renovations," Tiedemann told the Globe in September.

Emerson also owns two other large performance venues in Boston: the Cutler Majestic Theatre and the Paramount Center.

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