The Hippo


Oct 15, 2019








Greg Boggis. Courtesy photo.

Music and comedy at the Hatbox

Hatbox Theatre, 270 Loudon Road, Concord (separate entrance at Steeplegate Mall)
Saturday, April 16, 7:30 p.m., $15 at
Greg Boggis Presents
Comedy show, Friday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m., $15
3rd Degree
Progressive rock concert, Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m., $15

Many hats
Comedy and music at new Concord venue

By Michael Witthaus

 A packed house welcomed the latest addition to the Concord arts scene on April Fool’s Day, as the romantic comedy 2 Across launched the Hatbox Theatre, a 100-plus seat performance space located in the Steeplegate Mall. Presented by the Epsom-based company Lend Me a Theater, a “nomadic troupe” in the words of Hatbox co-founder Andrew Pinard, the production reflected the new venue’s spirit.

“We’re trying to make it accessible for people who want to do original and creative work,” Pinard said after opening night, as development team member Kevin Barrett nodded in agreement. “This is about creating a dynamic space for performers who are looking to grow and maybe haven’t had a space to do that.”
Barrett noted that the Friday night show wasn’t a grand opening. 
“This is season zero,” he said.
Talent is quickly lining up to give the Hatbox a dress rehearsal until it officially blasts off in the fall. Two music shows are booked: progressive rockers Mavara perform April 16, followed on April 23 by 3rd Degree. The latter is the first New England appearance by the semi-legendary band since 2010.
Music entrepreneur Dave Roberge, who runs Transit Music Group, organized the two shows. Roberge heard through the grapevine about Hatbox and reached out. The idea of a room focused on the artists intrigued and excited him. 
“I’m a big proponent of original music and I’m all about listening instead of doing the bar scene,” he said. “Progressive rock is especially conducive to this type of environment. People don’t go to see King Crimson and drink.”
Iranian expatriates who inculcated rock music via BitTorrent and other Internet tools form the core of Mavara; their migration to the U.S. in 2013 required fooling a repressive government with tricks straight out of a John le Carré novel. Their Hatbox show will feature selections from a forthcoming album, Consciousness, and include Boston guitarist Bryan Croad, a new addition to the band.
Comedian Greg Boggis found out about the Hatbox efforts and got involved immediately. He and Pinard are old friends. 
“We worked a variety of venues over the years,” Boggis wrote in a recent text exchange. “Most notably King’s Grant in Laconia before it became a Porky’s-style strip club for a period of time. He is a consummate professional and entertainer.”
In the lively weeks leading up to the theater’s opening, Boggis earned sweat equity in the Hatbox. 
“He came in three to four days a week, rolling up his sleeves to build the place,” Pinard said. “Anyone willing to get down in the mud with us and get stuff ready is aces in my book.”
On April 22, Boggis hosts the first Friday Night Comedy event, with headliner Steve Bjork and feature Carolyn Plummer. 
“I am quite excited to be in on the ground floor, especially at a mall — I hate escalators,” Boggis texted. “The intimate size and the theater setting all go toward making this an exciting possibility … I think it will be a room that comics will be really eager to work. I plan on bringing talented and creative comics and hope that the crowds will follow and the reputation will build from there. It will also be a place to introduce some unique and alternative performers and ideas.”
The soft opening through the summer includes acoustic Americana trio Decatur Creek in May. The Hardtacks, playing Civil War music, is another group Barrett hopes to bring to the Hatbox. Jazz maven Jon Lorentz, who performs and books shows throughout the region, is talking with Pinard, and an opera singer has expressed interest in doing a show. 
A pitch night to develop the first season happens May 20 at the Hatbox. The philosophy about filling the calendar is wide open; anyone with an idea is encouraged to come. As an example, Pinard cited Portsmouth’s independent Players’ Ring Theatre. 
“Part of their mission is to be diverse and risky,” he said. “They know some shows won’t sell out.”
Pinard is a professional magician — his Discovering Magic show runs monthly at the Hatbox — and believes the New Hampshire entertainment climate offers a unique advantage. 
“I’ve lived in this state the bulk of my life; I like being a big fish in a small pond,” he said. “Here, I have skills other people can’t do … self-agenting, the entrepreneurial thing. That’s the thing about the room; we want people who are hungry.” 

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