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The Gamm Theatre Readies Intimate Experience on Jefferson Boulevard

[CREDIT: Joe Siegel] From left, Tony Estrealla and Oliver Dow, managing director, in the 1245 Jefferson Blvd. theater space, soon the new home of The Gamm Theater.

[CREDIT: Joe Siegel] From left, Tony Estrealla and Oliver Dow, managing director, in the 1245 Jefferson Blvd. theater space, soon the new home of The Gamm Theater.
[CREDIT: Joe Siegel] From left, Tony Estrella, artistic director at The Gamm, and Oliver Dow, managing director, in the 1245 Jefferson Blvd. theater space, soon the new home of The Gamm Theater.
Warwick – The Gamm Theatre is set to open Oct. 11 in its new location at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., formerly Ocean State Theater, bringing five professional productions of plays exploring contemporary social, political and cultural issues.

Renovations are under way in preparation for the beginning of the 2018-2019 season, with a bigger stage and more flexibility.

[CREDIT:The Gamm Theater] An artist's drawing of the renovated exterior at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., soon the new home of The Gamm Theatre.
[CREDIT:The Gamm Theater] An artist’s drawing of the renovated exterior at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., soon the new home of The Gamm Theatre.
The stage has been extended and 100 seats have been removed. There will be two audience configurations, one for 300 seats and another which will allow for more intimate productions.

Dressing rooms with showers are being installed in the basement, and rehearsal space, administrative offices, and classrooms will be on the building’s second floor. There will also be a “green room” for the performers to rest between scenes.

Besides the additional space for the performers, the new theatre will offer more parking than current patrons of the Pawtucket space have enjoyed, said Tony Estrella, Gamm’s Artistic Director.

The Gamm called Pawtucket home for the last 15 years. Although the theater’s personnel liked the building, the limited size was a hindrance, Estrella noted.

[CREDIT: Peter Goldberg] Construction under way in the lobby at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., soon the new home of The Gamm Theatre.
[CREDIT: Peter Goldberg] Construction under way in the lobby at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., soon the new home of The Gamm Theatre.
Last December, the Gamm’s board of directors announced they would leasing the building. It had sat vacant following the sudden closure of Ocean State Theatre Company in May 2017, the apparent result of a financial difficulties and unpaid rent. Tax filings from 2014 showed OSTC was more than $2.2 million in debt at the time.

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[CREDIT: Joe Siegel] An expanded stage inside the 1245 Jefferson Blvd. theater space, soon the new home of The Gamm Theater.
[CREDIT: Peter Goldberg] An expanded stage inside the 1245 Jefferson Blvd. theater space, soon the new home of The Gamm Theater.
More recently, Estrella said City officials have been very enthusiastic about the Gamm becoming a part of the Warwick arts scene.

“They’ve been very welcoming,” said Estrella. “I think they’re excited to see (this building) alive again. We look forward to a long and fruitful relationship with them.”

Estrella notes with the expansion of TF Green Airport, officials believe another cultural attraction “will help complement that.”

The sudden closure of OSTC, which had occupied the building since 2012, left a void in the area’s theater world – which the Gamm is more than happy to fill.

Dow said patrons are eager to see the Gamm at their new location.

“We’re ahead on subscriptions,” Dow noted. “We’re also ahead on new subscriptions.”

Some theatergoers who went to Pawtucket will now have to get accustomed to a slightly longer drive to see their favorite performers. Estrella believes the Gamm’s newer, larger venue will have a favorable result on the shows they will be producing. Audiences will be in for a treat.

“The impact on the work will make it worth the extra ten minutes,” Estrella added.

[CREDIT: Peter Goldberg] An artist's conceptual drawing of the new lobby at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., soon the new home of The Gamm Theatre.
[CREDIT: The Gamm Theatre] An artist’s conceptual drawing of the new lobby at 1245 Jefferson Blvd., soon the new home of The Gamm Theatre.
The renovation work will cost approximately $2 million when finished.

“We plan to do it in phases,” said Oliver Dow, Managing Director for the Gamm. “We want to have a reserve fund because we know it’s going to take some time to grow into that space. The initial $2 million is an in-house campaign. After that, the goal is to own the property.”

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The Gamm’s Let’s Stage the Future Campaign, according to the theater company’s website, seeks to raise funds to make Jefferson Boulevard a permanent home for professional theater through a multi-year effort:

  • $1.2 million for design, renovations & construction of the interior of 1245 Jefferson Boulevard.
  • $200,000 for community engagement, marketing, fundraiser and administrative support.
  • $500,000 for creating an operating reserve fund and increased endowment to ensure the company’s secure future.

The website reports more than $1,046,000 committed toward a $1.9 million goal.

“It’s not just going to go back to the landlord,” Dow said. “This is going to be ours forever.”

The Gamm Theatre opens its 34th season Oct. 11 with The Night of the Iguana by Tennessee Williams. 

Joe Siegel
Author: Joe Siegel

Joe Siegel is a regular contributing writer for WarwickPost.com. His reporting has appeared in The Sun Chronicle in Attleboro and EDGE.