Bank of N.H. Stage to celebrate first anniversary with livestream

  • The Bank of N.H. Stage opened last summer, coinciding with Market Days, and had its inaugural year partially canceled after eight months due to COVID-19 precautions. Geoff Forester / Monitor file

  • The community crowds into the Bank of N.H. Stage in June 2019. Even after it plans to reopen in August, crowds won't be filling the theater for a while. Monitor file

Monitor staff
Published: 6/20/2020 1:57:23 PM

On Monday, the Bank of New Hampshire Stage will mark its one-year anniversary with live music, which normally wouldn’t be an unusual way for a performance venue to celebrate.

But these aren’t normal times. Instead of an in-person celebration, the downtown venue will host a free livestream of Bosey Joe, an experimental electronic music artist. The virtual celebration marks a much different ending to the first year of operations than executive director Nicki Clarke originally expected. 

“It just felt so awful to work so hard to launch and to have everything going so well, only to have to close down eight months later,” Clarke said. The venue’s first performance, held last summer on June 22, also featured Bosey Joe, as well as Ed Balloon, a Boston artist whose music fuses soul, R&B, and pop. A summer full of concerts and a grand opening held in October helped the venue see early success in diversifying the Capitol Center for the Arts’s offerings, one of the main goals of the new venue. The stage was continuing to add shows weekly, and Clarke’s team had just secured the final round of pledges and gifts to fully fund the building when it was forced to close on March 14 due to the coronavirus pandemic..

The stage’s history is one filled with adaptation – Clarke had been searching for a more intimate and more flexible space to add to the Capitol Center’s line-up, and was considering a space in the basement of the current Capitol Center building when developer Steve Duprey suggested the Concord Theater building. The historic South Main Street building, which opened in 1933, was originally home to the Concord Theater. The movie theater was a fixture of downtown Concord until 1994, when it screened its last film. The building then sat empty for the next 23 years until the Capitol Center for the Arts stepped in, breaking ground in 2018. 

The venue is empty once again, but Clarke and assistant executive director Joe Gleason are hard at work on plans for reopening, as well as planning safe programming in the meantime. Both Clarke and Gleason have worked with Gov. Chris Sununu’s administration to shape the reopening guidelines for performance venues, which were announced Jun. 18. Venues will be able to reopen beginning Jun. 29, with capacity limits, masks for guests and employees, and social distancing measures.

Clarke and Gleason are aiming for an Aug. 1 reopening at the Bank of New Hampshire Stage, out of both an abundance of caution and a need to plan how to keep guests and staff safe.

“We can’t just turn on a dime and start doing shows again,” Gleason said. “We need a lead time to figure things out.”

When the venue does reopen, things will look much different than before the closure. The state’s guidelines allow venues to open with 50 percent of their full capacity, but Clarke and Gleason estimate that social distancing measures mean they will only be able to welcome 20 to 30 percent of the stage’s capacity. 

The balance between safety, economics, and artistic performance is a delicate one, and Clarke and Gleason hope they can find a way to recover from the financial hit of the closure, even under the reopening limitations.

“We want to be able to reopen,” Clarke said, “but we know we’re going to have to do it slowly. It’s going to be a process to earn people’s trust again.”

In the meantime, the Capitol Center for the Arts will host outdoor concerts with local performers at the Concord Community Music School and Fletcher-Murphy Park on Saturday evenings this summer, beginning on July 18. Tickets will be limited and social distancing precautions will be in place, but Gleason hopes that it will provide a small return to normal for the Concord arts scene.

“Everybody really wants to get back to doing live shows,” Gleason said. “There's only so much you can do from your living room as an artist and stay connected.”

Despite the difficulties of the past three months, Gleason thinks the industry’s spirit is well-suited for the challenge.

“Arts people like us,” he said, “we always tend to rise to the occasion. There's never enough time, never enough money to get everything done. You're always working around limitations. And in this case, it just happens to be not being able to open, or reduced capacity, and we just have to find a new way to meet the challenge.”


Please support the Monitor's coverage

Help us fund local COVID-19 reporting in our community.




Concord Monitor Office

1 Monitor Drive
Concord,NH 03301
603-224-5301

 

© 2019 Concord Monitor
Terms & Conditions - Privacy Policy