Revitalization: Washington Street regains yet another old friend

Menino+speaking+at+the+Modern+Theatre+in+2010
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Revitalization: Washington Street regains yet another old friend

Menino speaking at the Modern Theatre in 2010

Menino speaking at the Modern Theatre in 2010

Menino speaking at the Modern Theatre in 2010

Menino speaking at the Modern Theatre in 2010

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Chelsea Szmania
Journal Staff.

The Modern Theatre looms overhead on Washington St. after being reincorporated into downtown Boston’s booming theatre district. On Friday, November 5, Suffolk held its grand opening of the Modern Theatre, a brand new addition to the campus.

At noon, visitors piled into the newly constructed theatre, where tours were held to show off its new features. Along the tour through the basement, each stop represented a different time period, spanning from 1929 to the present. Each stop included a site-specific performance, directed and written by Caitlin Langstaff, which showed the theatre’s evolution throughout the years.

With costumes to match each respective decade, skits were acted out. Performances included a man who no longer wants to run the film projector at the theatre, to a girl dreaming of writing plays, who is sick of being in a burlesque show, and many more. The tour ended with a performance on the stage itself, where students sung “Meet Me Tonight at the Modern, Marie,” with solos done by Bryan Pytka and Lindsay Brissette.

Afterwards, attendees were able to roam the theatre’s interior, where artifacts from the original structure hang on the walls. Also of note, the theatre’s original mural has become recreated as wallpaper for the theatre.

Built after the Great Boston Fire of 1872, Levi Newcomb designed a Victorian style building, which first became one of the largest carpet factories in the United States. It started to house films in 1913 when motion pictures gained in popularity, and then in 1949 it was renamed the “Mayflower.” By 1981, the theater was closed and became vacant until Suffolk started its revival in 2008, following the restoration of the Paramount and the Opera House as well. Marilyn Plotkins, the Theatre Department Chair and Director of the Modern Theatre, described the building as being “a magnificent ruin.” when Suffolk stepped in. “This part of Boston has now become a destination. This is part of a larger revitalization that has been dead for so many years,” said Plotkins.

Now the intimate theatre houses up to 185 patrons, with a built in orchestra pit that can hold 16 to 20 musicians. Although the university’s C. Walsh Theatre is much larger in space, the Modern Theatre has features, such as dressing rooms, and green rooms that make it technologically up-to-date for putting on shows.

“I love the intimacy of the theatre,” said Jarred Gould, junior. Its unique architecture and quaint vibe make it the perfect setting for theatre-goers in Boston. Not only will the theatre be a great addition to the university, but its history makes it come to life. The Modern Theatre was one of the first to show silent movies, showed vaudeville and introduced talkies in the 30s, and became a burlesque house in the 60s and 70s. It literally represents the evolution of theatre in America.

Students, especially those in the Theatre Department, could not be more thrilled with the new addition to the university. “It’s really gorgeous and unique; it’s a lot more exclusive architecturally,” said Brianna McGrath, 2014.

With the opening, the Theatre Department already has events lined up. This year, Car Talk: The Musical directed and written by Wes Savick will be showing at the Modern from March 31 to April 3. Also on the calendar is the performance of Antony and Cleopatra, Shakespeare’s tragic romance that tells the story of empires colliding. Due to the open house’s overwhelming interest, Plotkins feels very strongly about the success of the newly restored Modern Theatre. “A lot of people are going to think differently about Suffolk University.”

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