When we first heard about Hatbox Theatre, the idea of a performance space in a former mall store intrigued us.
And when we learned how quickly things were going to take shape to be ready for opening night, which was slated for April Fools Day, we needed to know more.
But instead of just describing what Hatbox Theatre was going to be, we wanted the full experience. And what better way than to take in opening night.
When we pulled up to the former Coldwater Creek store at Steeplegate, there was no flashing neon sign or red carpet leading to the front door. There was a small sign amidst the blacked out windows to indicate the new spot to catch live performances, and once inside we found a place that will quickly become a destination for those who enjoy an intimate space for theater, magic and music.
Since there were just 22 days between the time the trio of Andrew Pinard, Kevin Barrett and Matt Potter signed the lease papers and opening night, you could immediately tell there were probably a lot of sleepless nights. Because the space looks well put together.
“We didn’t give ourselves any room for error,” Pinard said.
They repurposed the Coldwater Creek checkout counter as the box office and strategically placed dark curtains behind the “stage” area to cover up some of the bright white walls that couldn’t be painted. Now, we put stage in quotations because it’s not actually a stage, but more of an area in front of the stadium seating that will soon be identified by a different flooring. Like we said, they only had a little over three weeks to get ready so some things are a work in progress.
“It’s not done yet,” Pinard said.
There are some lights installed above the stage for proper lighting with more to come and two large speakers hanging for sound. The dressing rooms for the talents are well, dressing rooms used by the clothing store.
As of now, there are 54 seats and two wheelchair spots, all of which were taken (and some extra folding chairs) for opening night. Tickets are $15 for general admission, and $12 for members, seniors and students.
The seats were repurposed from last year’s Kearsarge Regional High School auditorium overhaul and set up in four rows directly in front of the sound booth. They were quite comfy and spacious, although we didn’t get to sit in them for long – it was a sold out show after all.
You could even still smell a slight hint of the last minute painting earlier in the day. The crowd began to show a little before 7 p.m. for the 7:30 performance of 2 Across, a production by Lend Me A Theater.
Some looking for tickets had to settle for Saturday or Sunday’s showing, but soon that won’t be a problem because the plan is to expand the seating to more than 90. Although no one at Hatbox would mind if those shows sold out, too.
“The goal was to create a space where artists and the audience can come together and share a space,” Pinard said.
2 Across is a romantic comedy in one act about two strangers who meet on an empty San Fransisco railway car one early spring morning. With just a simple set (3 rows of four seats), Dan Sheys and Mo Demers back and forth banter about love, life and crossword puzzles makes for some belly shaking laughs. And you’re in luck because the duo will take the Hatbox stage this weekend for shows on Friday and Saturday at 7:30 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m.
There will be weekly live podcasts on Mondays, Pinard’s Discovering Magic on a monthly rotation and comedy nights. As of now, there’s shows scheduled through mid June. For a complete list of upcoming performances and events or to become a member, check out hatboxnh.com and facebook.com/hatboxtheatre.