Greater Harrisburg's Community Magazine

Second Act: Open Stage cuts the ribbon on its reimagined, rebuilt space

Producing Artistic Director Stuart Landon and Mayor Eric Papenfuse (center) led the ribbon-cutting today for Open Stage’s newly renovated space in downtown Harrisburg.

Previously, you may have found the Open Stage Theatre while trying to get to the parking garage above it, or you may have been coming for a show and accidentally wound up in the garage.

With a bright new entrance featuring murals and a neon sign, there’s no way you can miss it now.

Open Stage cut the ribbon today on its newly renovated Court Street space, which maintained their main stage while adding a blackbox theatre, lobby, full bar, library, new lighting and sound system and a revamped backstage.

Producing Artistic Director Stuart Landon dedicated the $1 million upgrade to the theater’s audiences, students and artists, who, he said, “honestly do take center stage at Open Stage.”

“It’s such a different experience from the old theater,” said board President Chris Baldrige. “It’s just mind-boggling to see how this space is now.”

In the lobby, across from the bar, is a stage for small performances like open mic nights or cabarets. The new blackbox theatre, which holds about 60 people, will function as space for rehearsals and performances.

A new performance space at Open Stage

However, Landon explained it primarily serves as space for the kids in the Alsedek Theatre School—started by founders Don and Anne Alsedek. The first two productions will be “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach.”

“Our educational programs are very powerful, and we have some wonderful family programming as well,” Landon said.

The first show in the blackbox theatre, “Who’s Holiday,” will open on Nov. 16.

With expanded facilities, programming is increasing as well.

There will be live performances six nights a week in the form of plays and musicals, concerts, drag shows and other performances. Landon is especially excited for the Court Street Series in the new bar area, which includes readings, improv and unique entertainment experiences.

The backstage area has been updated for performers and features a modern greenroom, a 24-person dressing room and a wardrobe room to hold costumes.

There’s no need to drive to New York or to Broadway,” Harrisburg Mayor Eric Papenfuse said at the ribbon-cutting. “We’ve got a little bit of Broadway right here.”

Funds for the project came through donors giving to Open Stage’s 30/30 campaign, named in honor of the 34 years they’ve been open, and the 30 more years they hope to continue to grow. According to Landon, this was the largest fundraising project they’ve ever had.

“All we had to do was ask, and they said yes,” Landon said, regarding the theater’s community of supporters.

Not only did the re-opening celebrate the renovations, but Landon brought to attention the 20th anniversaries of their productions of “The Diary of Anne Frank” and “A Christmas Carol.”

He mentioned that Open Stage is the only theater company in the world that has produced “The Diary of Anne Frank” consistently for so long. Appropriately, the long-running “A Christmas Carol” will be the first show on the mainstage, beginning on Nov. 23.

“We are proud to hit this new milestone,” Landon said.

Open Stage is located at 25 N. Court St., Harrisburg. To purchase tickets and for more information, visit their website.

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