The Hippo


Oct 16, 2019








Andrew Pinard in the Hatbox Theatre. Kelly Sennott photo.

Upcoming events

2 Across: Produced by Lend Me A Theater, $15, featuring Mo Demers and Dan Scheys, Friday, April 1, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 2, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 3, at 2 p.m.; Friday, April 8, at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, April 9, at 7:30 p.m.; Sunday, April 10, at 2 p.m.
Discovering Magic: $15, Wednesday, April 6, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, May 4, at 7:30 p.m.; Wednesday, June 1, at 7:30 p.m.
Mavara: $15, Progressive rock concert, Saturday, April 16, at 7:30 p.m.
Greg Boggis Presents: Stand-up 
comedy, $15, Friday, April 22, at 7:30 p.m.
3rd Degree: Progressive rock concert, $15, Saturday, April 23, at 7:30 p.m.
Hatbox Theatre
Address: Steeplegate Mall, 270 Loudon Road, Concord, in the former Coldwater Creek storefront

New theater in the capital city
Mall space transformed into Hatbox Theatre

By Kelly Sennott

 Thirteen days after the lease was signed, Andrew Pinard was working all hours to ready the new Hatbox Theatre space for its April 1 opening.

Located in the former Coldwater Creek storefront at the Steeplegate Mall, the place smelled like recently cut wood. Power tools were scattered over the floor and on tabletops, and a gigantic wooden tiered structure stood at its center. Stashed against one wall were 92 crimson seats,  upcycled from the old theater at Kearsarge Regional High School. While Pinard did the heavy-duty work inside — designing and building platforms, picking out carpets — theater development team member Kevin Barrett began setting up programming for the coming year. There was still a lot to do, but in a way, Pinard had been preparing to build this black box theater for a long time.
Building theaters
Pinard is maybe best-known in New Hampshire for his “Discovering Magic” show, which he tours around the world. He has a strong foundation in theater, having taught the subject at Pembroke Academy and performed and directed lots of regional shows. He also has a theater-building background. He helped build the current Pittsfield Players stage and pulled out seats from old Burlesque houses for the North Country Center for the Arts’s original theater. Most recently, he was acting clerk of the works in the reconstruction of the Kearsarge Regional High School auditorium, where his daughter now rehearses.
“I’ve always been interested in kind of recycling the equipment associated with theaters. I had three different sets of theater seats in my garage,” he said. “And as a performer, I’ve performed in probably over 1,000 venues at this point. I’ve had the opportunity to see a lot of different places.”
Community void
Pinard, who’s funding the majority of  the project himself, admits he’s seen a fair share of skepticism since the news went public weeks back.
“People have been saying, ‘You’re doing what? You’re doing where?’ And I get that,” Pinard said. “I’m not a wealthy man. I’m a performer by trade.”
But, in his opinion, the state capital has been in need of something like this since its Annicchiarico Theatre, which opened in 1966, closed back in 2007.
“It was a wonderful little venue,” Pinard said. “And it made for a more dynamic arts community. … This has been absent from Concord for 10 years. And I think there’s a deep need for it.”
People from the New Hampshire arts and theater scene have been inquiring about and stopping in to check out the space for weeks — he named off Stagecoach Productions, the Majestic Theatre, the Community Players of Concord, Not Your Mom’s Musical Theatre, theatre KAPOW. A collection of companies have already promised shows, like Lend Me A Theater and New World Theatre. 
He said Matt Newton from the New Hampshire Film Office wants to produce a podcast with a live audience, and so does Dan Pelletier. 
In fact, Pinard said the company is booked till June and is looking for summer performers.
The term Hatbox sounds like black box — one of Pinard’s favorite kinds of theaters. 
Constructing a black box theater has been on Pinard’s mind about five years, he said, but didn’t start scouring the city with Barrett and former student Matt Potter until a year ago. 
“One day, we said, why don’t we just look at the mall. It has parking, it has sprinklers — it has everything I needed. I probably considered 15 or 18 venues before this,” Pinard said.
The space, formerly a boutique, has fitting rooms that will become actor dressing rooms. 
Out back are two restrooms, a water bubbler and library of more than 2,000 scripts from Pinard’s collection. What was a check-out counter is now a ticket box office and refreshments stand. They still needed to install drywall, build two more platforms, put down carpet, hang curtains and install seats — 54 in the middle, 19 on either side — and a lighting grid.
Right now, the theater is for-profit, but Pinard wants to build a nonprofit arm and eventually turn it nonprofit entirely. He’s holding off because it’s faster to start up this way. 
“Sometimes nonprofits can take two to three years to get up and running, and I didn’t want to wait those two to three years,” he said. 
The business plan will be modeled after the Players’ Ring, a Portsmouth black box theater, which is small and flexible, not unlike the Annicchiarico. 
It hosts producers’ nights every year where people can come pitch performance ideas.
“If selected, you split the gate,” he said. “You get the lion’s percentage and the house takes a certain percentage as well. We’re stealing liberally from them, with their permission.”
He admits, Portsmouth is an entirely different beast than Concord. 
“But we’ve seen an explosion of groups who want to do things and yet don’t have a home to do them in,” Pinard said. “My hope is we’re going to be able to take some of the productions that are being done on the Seacoast and maybe remount some of them here, as well, so Concord audiences can have the opportunity to experience some of the excitement in Portsmouth.”
Pinard plans to perform “Discovering Magic” there once a month and hopes for monthly comedy nights, progressive rock concerts, chamber and jazz concerts, plus original plays.
He said he’s doing this not to make money — he’ll continue working as a full-time performer regardless of how this new project goes — but because nobody else is.
“I’m not religious, but I see the theater as a type of church. It’s a place for people to come together and explore concepts and topics, and give them a place to grow and change and support each other,” he said. 

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