Picture This Post recently interviewed the artistic director of Porchlight Music Theatre, Michael Weber, about the Theatre’s move their new space at the Ruth Page Center for the Arts and what to expect from them in the future.
Picture This Post: What’s prompting the move to a new space?
Michael Weber: The historic Ruth Page Center for the Arts has been the formative home of Chicago Shakespeare Theatre, Lookingglass Theatre, and, most recently, Chicago Children's Theatre - companies that we greatly admire.
We believe that the increase in seating capacity and stage space as well as the great location in Chicago's Gold Coast neighborhood combined with our unique, award-winning approach to creating music theatre will be a successful combination for the next phase of growth for the company.
Are there rehearsals going on in the new space?
Rehearsals will continue at our Rehearsal/Production Studios at 4200 W. Diversey, however we will be collaborating with The Ruth Page Center to develop music theatre specific classes and camps that emphasize a strong dance foundation in addition to singing and acting as part of building the next generation of music theatre artists.
What are the benefits of the new space? Are there things you can do there that you couldn’t do in the old space?
Physically, The Ruth Page Center offers a larger and higher playing area that will allow us to approach bigger scale productions, like Billy Elliot, while retaining our signature intimate approach in our audience's proximity to the actors and musicians. Our seating capacity will grow to 218 with an added balcony view that will offer a stellar vantage point to experiencing our productions. The neighborhood offers walking distance access to some of our city's flagship restaurants, shopping and attractions as well as a variety of transportation and parking options.
What are the challenges in moving to a new space? How do you see it potentially affecting the company?
The challenges are also what help advance the company in our growth toward reinforcing our position as the center for music theatre in Chicago. There is excitement in bringing our theatrical approach to a new and larger palette and seeing where we can push both the parameters of the Ruth Page stage and the expectations of our audiences. We hope that our presence in this prestigious Chicago location will add to the awareness of Porchlight as one of the premiere theatrical companies in our city.
Will the space be rented out to any other theater groups?
Shaw Chicago will continue to present readings of works by Bernard Shaw and his contemporaries but other than that, Porchlight Music Theatre will be the only theatre company that is an Artist In-Residence at The Ruth Page Center.
Several of the Porchlight reviews in Picture this Post mentioned that a big plus was the intimacy of the performance space instead of a cavernous Broadway hall. How do you plan to hold on to that feeling for the audience?
The main floor of the Ruth Page Center is only eight rows and the balcony has three rows. A main component of our interest in the space was the audiences' close proximity to the stage which we will continue to retain. We also look forward to exploring new and inventive ways of using the space we will reinvent how audiences can expect to experience our productions.
Your new space was once the home to Chicago Shakespeare. Would you similarly like to eventually move to a bigger and more commercial venue akin to Navy Pier as they did?
At this time, our primary interest is to explore the possibilities our new home at The Ruth Page Center can offer both in production and audience/supporter growth. As our audience base continues to expand (we nearly doubled our Mainstage subscriptions last year and our Porchlight Revisits and New Faces Sing Broadway series each tripled performances in three years), we do have some big visions for Porchlight and the idea of following in the steps of previous tenants like Chicago Shakespeare or Lookingglass would be a dream come true for us.
All questions were answered by the Artistic director of Porchlight Music Theatre, Michael Weber.
For More information on Porchlight's Upcoming Season check out our 2017-2018 Season Preview.
All Photos are courtesy of Porchlight Music Theatre.