Grandel's Playhouse to Wax, Hasty Pudding to Wane

Square theaters new and old

Opening soon: the Market Theater. Among the blessings the new performance space confers is that undergraduate groups, faced with a shortage of boards to tread, may rent the use of the hall. The theater will be owned and operated by the Carr Foundation, a nonprofit organization created by Gregory C. Carr, M.P.P. '86, who also underwrote the Carr Center for Human Rights Policy with an $18-million gift to the Kennedy School of Government (see "Human Rights, Front and Center," July-August 1999, page 75).

Opening this spring, the theater will bring its magic to a building of 1896 vintage on a site fronting on a bit of parkland and Kennedy Street, with Winthrop and Mount Auburn Streets running alongside. The building formerly housed Grendel's Restaurant and before that the Pi Eta club, and the land was occupied in the more remote past by a carriage-maker, a bookseller, a periwig-maker, a jail, and a public marketplace--hence the new theater's name. A tavern--Grendel's Den--will persist as a tenant in the basement. The first floor will be the theater proper, with 110 to 120 seats in a semicircle before a proscenium stage flanked by two balconies from which players can conduct theatrical business. It will be furnished in the style of a turn-of-the-twentieth-century playhouse.

The second floor of the building, with distinctive large round windows, will offer rehearsal space. The third floor was heretofore an attic. Grassi Design Group, architects, have let there be light, and the new space will be the office of the theater's director, Thomas Cole. A playwright, he worked for the American Repertory Theatre for eight years and has assisted playwright David Mamet. He has also had numerous gallery exhibitions of installation art (multimedia work) and has taught performance. He is poised to earn a master's degree in literature and creative writing from the Extension School.

"The Market Theater will be multipurpose," says philanthropist Carr, a cofounder of Boston Technology Inc. and former chairman of Prodigy Inc. "We will run writing and acting workshops, have one-time readings of playwrights' work, and present plays collaboratively with the American Repertory Theatre. We want to produce our own plays as well, which may or may not have a human-rights theme. We'd be delighted to have student activity from time to time. We will use the theater for the Carr Foundation's human-rights film series. We want to develop talent and foster a community of theater people."

Undergraduate performers might take the position that they need all the fostering they can get.

The Agassiz Theatre in Radcliffe Yard has been the venue of many an amateur offering, but the Radcliffe Institute has expressed interest in using the theater for its own purposes, and the space may be lost to undergraduates in 2004.

The Hasty Pudding building is scheduled for a major overhaul and is to close for construction for a year beginning next summer (see "Stirring the Pudding," September-October, page 85). It will emerge from the experience with its 300-seat theater improved and reserved for undergraduate use. Harvard has acquired the building since last report (it had previously owned only the land beneath it), and has begun to plan how best to remodel the old structure.

The up-scale restaurant Up Stairs at the Pudding had leased space at the top of the building from the former owners. The lease expired last August, and Harvard proposed that the restaurant depart. The restaurant's owners sued the University, claiming they had the right to renew the lease. Despite the expiration of the lease and financial complications involving the restaurant's previous landlord, the parties came to an understanding, and the restaurant will remain in place until mid June 2001. It will then move and immediately reopen in an undisclosed location, not necessarily nearby its many Harvard patrons.

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