A Fresh New Theatre Space in Cranston

Tom Chace playing the part of the Stage Manager in Our Town

The Artists’ Exchange has been open since 2004 at 50 Rolfe Square in Cranston, serving both the community at large and developmentally disabled adults with innovative arts programs. The creative people who run the Artists’ Exchange, operating under the umbrella of Gateways to Change, Inc., have always had new ideas but limited space.

With careful planning and judicious fundraising, Elaine McKenna-Yeaw, Director of the Artists’ Exchange, has announced that they have taken over a building just a few doors down at 82 Rolfe Square. The new space is called Theater #82. “We are all very excited about this,” says McKenna-Yeaw. “We’ve been hoping to expand for some time, and the right opportunity presented itself.”

The new space at Theater #82 has a small café with a space so that musicians will have a spot to perform. Mike and Jen Ray will run the new Characters Café. The main space seats 80 to 120 people, which triples the size of the audience they have been able to seat so far. Modular set pieces give flexibility to the space and the building also includes a huge basement level with plenty of room for a spacious green room, set piece storage and a walk-in closet for costume storage.

McKenna-Yeaw said that the entire slate of plays for the season will be moved to the new Theater #82. The grand opening of Theater #82 is set for April 5 and will include a performance of Our Town, directed by Tom Chace. In addition, the space is available for other groups to rent, and they’re already booking into August. McKenna-Yeaw hopes to utilize the building during the day with movement classes such as yoga.

The original building at #50 Rolfe Square will continue to provide a variety of arts programs, summer camps and other activities. McKenna-Yeaw plans to develop a teen music program on Friday nights and an ongoing film screening event on Saturday nights. The Black Box theatre and other smaller rehearsal spaces will still be available to outside groups to rent.

A Rhode Island comedy improv group called Bring Your Own Improv (BYOI) will now have a permanent home at Theater #82 with weekly performances on Fridays at 10pm. Daniel Lee White, founder of BYOI said, “Theater #82 had a good feel to it, run by good people. We could tell it was going to be the new place for theater and the arts in Rhode Island, and we wanted to be part of that.”

According to Christina Mealey, former Development Director for the Artists’ Exchange, Thorton Wilder’s Pulitzer Prize-winning Our Town is the perfect performance to go with the opening. Says Mealey, “Our Town is celebrating its 75th anniversary this year and contains heartfelt, universal themes. It’s the story of a small community and the simple lives of the characters that inhabit it.”

For more information about programs at the Artists’ Exchange or for tickets to Our Town, visit artists-exchange.org. To make a booking, please contact Elaine McKenna-Yeaw at elaine.yeaw@artists-exchange.org.


Photo by Christina Monahan

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