Havenwood unveils Tad's Place arts center
Auditorium honors playwright Mosel
Pulitzer Prize-winning playwright Tad Mosel spent his entire life around actors. But when he moved to the Havenwood-Heritage Heights Retirement Community, he suddenly was living in a place without a real stage.
When Mike Palmieri, the organization's CEO and president, approached Mosel about his plans to bring an auditorium to the residents, Mosel quickly became a generous donor for the project. Mosel died in 2008, but his name stretches across the front of the community's new arts center, Tad's Place.
"I know that Tad probably looks down on us and is very pleased with the effort and what we've done to do something special for the residents who live here," Palmieri said. "That's very powerful."
After almost six months of construction, Tad's Place officially opened on the community's East Side Drive campus in Concord last month. The arts center now houses an elevated stage, separated from the 168-seat auditorium by a heavy blue velvet curtain. Formerly a doctor's office, it also includes two conference rooms, a sleek lobby and a backstage room.
Before he died, Mosel contributed $100,000 to the project to add auditorium space. Palmieri began the capital campaign for Tad's Place in 2010. After two years of fundraising, he reached the campaign's $1 million goal in January.
"Since January, I would come and videotape here for about 20 minutes every Friday with our IT department," he said. "We would take the videotape back in the afternoon and play it on our campus television system, so the residents could see the progress of the construction project right from day one."
Previously, the residents' dining area would be taken apart to make room for a large event or performance.
"When you do that, it's a lot of wear and tear on the staff," Palmieri said. "A lot of the furniture gets dinged and donged, and it really doesn't feel like it's that special dining room. . . . When we did something special, we'd always makeshift the stage."
Palmieri said the space would honor Mosel's memory as a place for the residents to be creative. He envisioned the space as one to be used frequently for meetings, artistic performances and residents' events.
"I think the fact that he was who he was, that he was an artist and a writer and a playwright, I think that is inspirational for people in their lives," Palmieri said. "Right now the organization is very actively involved in many different kinds of productions that they do, whether it's talent shows or poetry or slapstick comedy or drama or radio broadcasting. . . . They all have a venue now."
Mosel, born in 1922, followed his passion for theater to Broadway as a writer and actor. He wrote a number of television screenplays, and he won a Pulitzer Prize in 1961 for his play All the Way Home.
"He was just mesmerized by the whole atmosphere of theater, the aura," Palmieri said.
The writer moved to the Havenwood-Heritage Heights community in the early 1990s. Palmieri remembered Mosel as a gifted storyteller.
"He was always polite, very well-spoken, had a tremendous vocabulary," he said. Always well-dressed and polished, Mosel drove a white Volkswagen that Palmieri described as "a partner in his life." The color palette for the art-deco design in the new arts center is inspired by Mosel's favorite color, blue.
Many donors purchased theater and movie posters that now hang on the walls of the auditorium, arranged around the original poster for Mosel's All the Way Home. The telegram Mosel received upon winning the Pulitzer Prize also hangs on the wall.
"Tad's presence is always with us," Palmieri said. "There's a lot of energy here."
Resident Casper Kranenburg, who is also a member of the community's board of trustees, was one of the first to perform on the new stage. He and his partner, Bill Twibill, sang "Always Look on the Bright Side" from the Broadway show Spamalot during a party for the building's June 15 grand opening.
The new arts center "is so essential," Kranenburg said. "We started off this all about six years ago. The situation we have then and up until now, we had to morph our dining room into a theater or cinema."
Kranenburg, 63, moved to Havenwood-Heritage Heights about 10 years ago with Twibill. The new auditorium fills a need for the residents, he said.
"It is a multipurpose building," he said. "A real cultural center."
Krananburg remembered Mosel as "a very private person."
"He did some presentations on his life in TV and Broadway," he said. "We got to know him and enjoy his stories. It was his idea to have the auditorium. He would be absolutely delighted about this."
(Megan Doyle can be reached at 369-3316 or firstname.lastname@example.org or on Twitter @megan_e_doyle.)