New Digs For The Boston Conservatory

The new Boston Conservatory building (Courtesy)
The new Boston Conservatory building (Courtesy)

The Boston Conservatory, one of the nation’s oldest performing arts schools, christens its new, state-of-the art theater complex Wednesday night with a series of live performances.

School President Richard Ortner says the $32 million upgrade has been long overdue, and shared an entertaining story involving Mayor Thomas M. Menino to make his point clear.

“The mayor and his wife were frequent attendees at musical theater performances here,” Ortner said, “but the theater got awfully hot, and the mayor likes a cool room. So he made quite a point of it at the groundbreaking that, as far as he was concerned, the primary benefit of the project was to get an air conditioned theater for the Boston Conservatory.”

Then Ortner added, “we’ve done much more than that, of course.”

And they have. The new facility adds 16,000 square feet of performance space and rehearsal studios. There are 300 seats in the expanded theater. The new space also sports a new orchestra pit and upgraded lighting and sound equipment.

The improvements are critical for the Boston Conservatory’s future, Ortner said, because they make the school more attractive to new audiences, but also to new students.

“The previous facilities, when families would come to visit, were something of a disincentive to enrollment,” Ortner said. But now, he says, “that is no longer the case.”

Currently there are 700 dance, music and theater students enrolled at the conservatory, according to Ortner. He also said the new theater is the first major facilities project at the school in more than 50 years.

The Boston Conservatory’s main building, located at 8 The Fenway, was never intended for musical or theatrical performances in the first place. Built in 1899, it originally housed the Boston Medical Society.

In 1948 the school’s administration constructed a small auditorium on Hemenway Street, then expanded it 10 years later.

“Frankly,” Ortner said, “it has not been touched a good deal since then.”

The new theater — and even the marquee that’s now visible from Boylston Street — represent more than a face-lift for the Boston Conservatory, Ortner believes. He calls it “a new presence for the city.”

To celebrate the opening and thank the Fenway community there will be performances at the Boston Conservatory's new theater through the weekend.

This program aired on October 13, 2010. The audio for this program is not available.

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Andrea Shea Correspondent, Arts & Culture
Andrea Shea is a correspondent for WBUR's arts & culture reporter.



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