Concord Youth Theatre
There's No Place Like Home
Anyone involved for any length of time in children's theater knows how important it is to find your own space. So many of us have had the experience of being wandering theater nomads, renting from a church, school or karate studio for workshops and rehearsals, finally landing in a rented performance space just days before a show. And an office space or a space to store all the accumulated costumes, sets, props, and assorted theater effluvia from over the years? Ha! A mere dream.
But for some of us, dreams can come true.
Take the case of the Concord Youth Theatre (CYT), whose journey towards home had the emotional twists and turns of an odyssey. For many years, CYT (founded in 1976) had a home. It was an ideal situation for them as part of Emerson Umbrella Center for the Arts in Concord. Housed in an old school building, CYT spent an enormous amount of time and money refurbishing the building from 1983 through 2005. They were able to hold workshops, rehearsals, and performances there and even had an office space.
But in 2005, CYT lost their lease.
"We had to reinvent ourselves after losing the space," explains Lisa Evans, Producing Artistic Director of CYT since 1998. "We went from a staff of five to just two in order to conserve money and stay above water."
CYT was without a home for four years, renting space at schools and churches in Concord, Lexington, Maynard, and Lincoln-Sudbury. Luckily, a local businessman (whose mother had been president of the CYT board many years ago) stepped forward and offered them a space in an old warehouse in Concord. This un-airconditioned space wasn't ideal but it was all they had. They converted the space into a 100-seat blackbox theater. But then the landlord wanted to develop and rebuild the space so they had to move. Again. But not without his promise that he would find CYT a space first.
That was when fate stepped in once more to lead them to a small medical office building at 358 Baker Street in Concord.
"The building is newer," Evans says, "there's more parking, there's air conditioning. We don't have to do anything! And we have the opportunity to take the whole building through the enormous generosity of one of our benefactors."
The computer company which shares the building will leaving in March. Since the entire building needs reconstruction, CYT plans to "gut" that space and create a 90-seat blackbox theater, thanks to an architect on the theater's board who created the plans, worked with the town for permits, and even found them a contractor willing to work for the cost of materials only. Lisa's son Chris Evans, a successful film actor who starred in last summer's "Captain America", has contributed the money for all building materials and new equipment.
It's a dream come true for Evans: "I love a blackbox for kids to learn in, because when a child is learning in a smaller space, they don't have to rely on set pieces and big effects. They have to rely on acting. A blackbox is intimate and up-close. It's better for the kids to learn in that environment. The whole thing is really exciting. We're starting a new chapter here with this building--a new story. We're very lucky. For all the bad stuff that's happened, we're still here."
The Concord Youth Theatre's first production in the their new theater will be Charlotte's Web in May.
For more information about the Concord Youth Theatre, please visit CYT's website.