The Hippo


Dec 6, 2019








Robert Dionne at work in the Majestic Theatre’s new home at 880 Page St., Manchester. Kelly Sennott photo.

The Majestic Theatre

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New home
Majestic Theatre moves to 880 Page St.

By Kelly Sennott

 This winter, the Majestic Theatre makes its new home at 880 Page St., the former residence of the Grace Capital Community Church in Manchester.

During a recent tour of the new place, Artistic Director Robert Dionne was waist-deep in construction projects within the 7,000 square-foot space — an upgrade from its 5,400 of square feet on the third floor of the Bell building on Main Street. 
When completed, it will house 10 music studios, three rehearsal rooms, offices and, most notably, an enormous 3,000 square-foot space at the building’s center, where the church used to congregate. For the time being, the new home will be used only for rehearsals and music lessons with the Ted Herbert Music School, which the theater company acquired early 2016. Productions will continue at the Executive Court Banquet Facility and Derry Opera House.
This enormous room was being used for storage mid-December while the studios were being finished, and it was filled with props, furniture, costumes, chairs, drums and pianos. At the front was a large platform left over from the previous tenants. Despite all the work that still had to be done, Dionne seemed optimistic at the time of the visit.
“Downtown is losing Ted Herbert’s, which is kind of sad because they’ve been there a long time, but the opportunity that this is going to provide is going to allow the school to move to the next level,” he said.
The concept of “home” has led the 26-year-old Majestic Theatre on a roller coaster ride the past five years. In 2011, it was forced to move from the former Ste. Marie School building after 10 years there to the Bell building due to stricter fire codes — the Ste. Marie building needed a new sprinkler system, and the company couldn’t afford to have one installed at the time, Dionne said.
The positive outcome of this 2011 move was that the theater’s proximity to the Ted Herbert Music School in the same building afforded Dionne to get to know Mark and Marlene Herbert, who asked him if he’d be willing to take the school under the Majestic umbrella early 2016, which he did. At the same time, the siblings sold the building separately to Chandler LLC.
But early fall, the new building owner informed Dionne that the Majestic Theatre and Ted Herbert Music School would need to vacate the building due to intentions to redevelop, Dionne said. Not long after, Dionne and Karen Bessette, development director with the school, began looking and found 880 Page St. They began construction around Thanksgiving.
Overall, rent is more, but it’s less per square foot because of its location in the warehouse district instead of the business district, Dionne said. They liked it was two minutes from Interstate 93, and they liked its enormous size, which would enable bigger ensembles, classes, camps and bands, and its ample free parking. Dionne signed a 10-year lease. 
“When one door closes, another opens. This has been a lot of work, but in the larger scheme of things, it’s going to be so much better. It’s giving us that stability we haven’t had since we left the West Side. The owner of this building, Jim McDowell, is amazing. He’s met us beyond halfway to get us in here,” Dionne said. 
Since Dionne’s interview, the plan has seen some hiccups; the official move-in was postponed from Dec. 17 to early January because the building and certificate of occupancy weren’t ready in time. But he’s been encouraged by the community’s support, particularly on Dec. 3, when the theater and music school saw a crowd of 30 students, directors, teachers and locals helping the company move major items across town. 
He hopes this presents the start of a more integrated nonprofit. The plan is to host a grand opening in January, once move-in is official.
“The way we were situated in the Bell building was in a ‘U.’ There were teachers on one end that didn’t really know teachers on the other end. ... Now, we’re really all going to be one unit, which is what we want,” Dionne said.

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