College looks to fill Colonial Theatre

by Nathanael King / Beacon Staff • September 21, 2016

Programming bids are coming in for the Colonial Theatre.
Programming bids are coming in for the Colonial Theatre.

The Board of Trustees is reviewing bids from various performing arts organizations interested in providing programming to the Colonial Theatre, President M. Lee Pelton said. 

Last Monday, the Boston Globe identified Celebrity Series of Boston, Broadway in Boston, Boston Lyric Opera, Live Nation, and SMG as groups who had submitted programming bids. The Globe reported that all but SMG approached Emerson as a collective, with Boston Lyric Opera submitting both as part of the group proposal and also independently.

Pelton declined to confirm the identity of any of the bidders. 

As reported by the Beacon last fall, the college ended its relationship with the Citi Performing Arts Center, the organization that had leased the space since 2012, and closed the theater, a move that drew criticism from the Emerson community and the theater world at large.

Last October, the Globe published documents outlining a proposition to convert the historic theater into a student center, although Pelton insisted that this was only one of many possible plans. The college later announced that it would open a student dining center down the street adjacent to the Walker Building.

Pelton said there are three needs to be met with reopening the Colonial Theatre.

“We have certain fiduciary or financial parameters that need to be negotiated,” he said. “We want to make sure that the programming in the facility is consistent with the profoundly historic nature of the Colonial Theatre. We want to ensure that the facility can aid in the work of faculty and the education of our students.”

Pelton is meeting with performing arts chair Melia Bensussen on Friday to discuss her department’s needs regarding the theater. Bensussen said she appreciated being a part of the conversation. 

“We are grateful that the college reevaluated the plans for the theater, and we’re very excited as a department that the theater will continue to function as a performing arts venue,” she said.

Pelton said the timeframe for repairs and renovations in the Colonial is still undecided. While the college will be responsible for the structure and mechanical concerns, he said, they would need to discuss detailed renovation needs with bidders. 

Pelton said the board is trying to choose either an operator for the theater or programming to fill it with by the end of October.