People often told Stuart Landon that Open Stage was one of the many hidden gems of Harrisburg.
Even though they meant well, Landon, the theater’s producing and artistic director, would joke that he’s ready for the space not to be hidden anymore. Just a gem.
Thanks to a $1 million renovation project, Open Stage is on its way to achieving Landon’s “just gem” status. Almost every part of the theater is being revamped, including the stages, lighting and sound system, and even a new N. Court Street entrance.
“It’s going to be more of a destination than it ever was,” Landon said. “We’re hoping that this allows us more visibility, along with improving the experience of our patrons and improving our experience with our students.”
One of the bigger additions is the Open Stage bar. The bar will feature a small stage, which will be used for spoken word and open mic nights, cabarets and drag performances.
Along with the stage in the bar, the theater will have two other stages: the main stage (see floor plan, right side) and a black box or studio theater, which will hold around 50 people (see floor plan, left side).
For performers, Open Stage is reconfiguring its backstage area and upgrading its green room and dressing rooms.
“It’s important that our mission is to support a company of artists, and it’s important that their spaces are all utilized and efficient in a comfortable way,” Landon said. “So that was a big part of our renovations.”
Open Stage is also adding a classroom for students in the Alsedek Theatre School. Named after Don and Anne Alsedek, co-founders of Open Stage along with Marianne Fisher, the Alsedek Theatre School helps K-12 students develop their acting skills through workshops and productions. This spring, students are performing “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory” and “James and the Giant Peach” on the new black box stage.
“It’s really exciting for them to kind of have a home that they can call their own,” Landon said.
Open Stage also is increasing the theater’s accessibility and adding bathrooms and an emergency exit near Strawberry Alley.
Open Stage was able to upgrade its space (which, according to Landon, “is long overdue”) thanks to its 30/30 campaign. The 30/30 campaign is a fundraiser in which the theater honors its previous 34 years, while looking toward the next 30 years, hence the renovations.
“We’re going to be here for the long haul,” he said. “We love where we are. We love our space. We love being downtown. And so it’s like, ‘Okay, if we’re going to be here, then what do we need to do to our facility to make sure that it can last for the next 30 years?’”
Open Stage started its campaign in spring 2017 and has gotten donations from residents, local businesses and foundations. According to Landon, it’s the largest capital campaign in Open Stage history, and they still have a ways to go. So far, they’ve raised $700,000 of the $1 million they need to reach.
“We’ve not only never made an ask this big, but we’ve never made an ask like this,” he said. “The fact that we looked to our community and said, ‘Hey, will you help us?’ and they turned right around and said, ‘Yes.’”
Open Stage is set to open the doors to its new space in early October. Their first production will be “Who’s Holiday!” which runs Nov. 16 through Dec. 28 and stars Rachel Landon, who also is Open Stage’s marketing manager.
“[Patrons] get to see this beautiful product that a group of artists put together, and so it’s a really beautiful thing,” she said. “So, I’m glad that we get to improve our facilities and improve the experience because I think it’s worth it. It really is.”
Open Stage of Harrisburg is located on 25 N. Court St, Harrisburg. For more information, visit the Open Stage website.