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Five Prestigious, Nearby Theaters

by Christopher Marinelli

As a theater enthusiast and actor, I can empathize with the avid theater-goer about straying from the mainstream venues and finding the best places to see a great show.

Theater is a great change of pace from a trip to the movies, and Connecticut has its fair share of hole-in-the-wall theaters that are worth checking out for a night of drama and laughs. These are just a few of the many theaters and playhouses that have made their way onto my list of places to see a show.

1.) I first visited the Connecticut Repertory to see a showing of “Young Frankenstein,” and was completely blown away. The Connecticut Repertory Theater casually resides in a typical neighborhood located just a few minutes from downtown New Britain at 23 Norden St. The location itself is as infatuating as the performances. Before the theater company acquired it, the theater was known as the Norden Lodge.

At first the theater appears as just a house, and I can say I was truly blown away once inside. The Connecticut Repertory is a spacious world of its own big enough to fulfill the needs of an immense audience without compromising any seats to be considered less than desirable.

The casts of each show are entirely volunteer, which is not meant to play down the absolute talent and professionalism they held themselves to throughout the performance. This has become one of my favorite spots to go to for performances, especially considering the volunteer actors’ exceptional performances.

2.) While this wouldn’t be an unknown location to the avid theater meanderer, the Long Wharf Theater remains to be slightly under the radar despite their exceptional plays. The Long Wharf can also pride itself in having an unconventional location, as it’s found in a former food terminal right in the middle of the New Haven Harbor at 222 Sargent Drive.

The grunge-like location only adds to the theater as it pulls you out of the contemporary world and into a new experimental environment. The inside of the theater stacks the audience up, giving you an almost bird’s-eye view of the stage.

I also credit the Long Wharf for putting on plays that pose difficult questions on controversial subjects – a nice break from seeing retold stories and instead experiencing something new. Theater is a place to have a discussion, a place to leave you feeling changed, and the Long Wharf accomplishes this time and time again.

3.) Do not underestimate the professionalism that can be found at a community college’s theater program, especially at the Tunxis Stage. Tunxis Community College at 271 Scott Swamp Road in Farmington hosts an intimate black box theater-styled stage that makes every seat a front row view.

English professor Dr. George Sebastian-Coleman brings his exceptional background of theater and acting to his directing style.

The cast is typically comprised of students and the occasional professor, each being held to the highest of expectations by their director. The plays are put on once per semester, and almost always sell out within a few days from being put on sale.

4.) Having acted there as well as returning to view the spring play as a graduate with more theater critiquing experience, I can attest to the exceptional talent in the plays at Plainville High School Spring Theater. I acted in a performance of Mary Zimmerman’s “Metamorphosis,” to which we took out the first 10 rows of the auditorium and replaced them with a swimming pool. The seating was arranged so the audience was on either side, as well as on the stage to look down on the play that took place in the water, the surrounding decking of the pool, and on risers or “God Platforms” behind a great black curtain.

Director Jeff Blanchette has a taste for going above and beyond the expectations of a high school play, and has become known for these spectacular performances of unconventional theater. Despite the status of a high school, each spring Plainville can boast sold out shows and raving reviews from experienced theatergoers who are blown away by these small-town performances.

5.) This past summer at the University of Saint Joseph, the Capital Classics Theatre put on an outdoor showing of “Romeo and Juliet” that completely blew me away. An adaptation of the play in a “Shakespeare in the Park” style completely changed my outlook on the great Shakespearian tragedy. “Romeo and Juliet” is one of those shows that can be retold time and time again, making it immortal in the theater lover’s eyes. This company upheld the tradition and made it a spectacle worth seeing, and I cannot wait to see what show is performed in the upcoming summer of 2016.