Emerson College announced today (September 30, 2011) that it is working out final details of a three-year lease agreement that would result in the Citi Performing Arts Center taking responsibility for operating the Colonial Theatre beginning in July 2012.
“We are very excited about entering into a new partnership with the Citi Center that will usher in the next chapter of this historic theater’s history,” said Emerson College President Lee Pelton. “This is good news for the performing arts community and Boston’s theatergoers,” he said.
The Colonial Theatre, located on Boylston Street across from Boston Common, was purchased by Emerson in 2006, as part of a historic transformation of the College. During a 15-year period, Emerson has helped transform Boston’s historic Theatre District, having renovated the Cutler Majestic Theatre and the Paramount Theatre, and most recently bringing new life to the lower Washington Street corridor through the establishment of ArtsEmerson.
“We are so excited about this possibility,” said Josiah A. Spaulding Jr., president and CEO of Citi Performing Arts Center. “We have signed a memorandum of understanding and are putting the final touches on a lease. Citi Performing Arts Center is recognized nationally as a nonprofit expert in maintaining and running beautiful historic theatres, so this partnership made perfect sense for us. As a proud long-term partner of Emerson College, our education goals fit perfectly with our strategic vision.”
Spaulding also said that Broadway Across America will be Citi’s new booking partner. Broadway Across America had previously operated the Colonial under an agreement with Emerson. “With Broadway Across America, we will be able to provide even more quality programming to Boston residents and visitors. We believe that this collaboration will benefit both the Colonial and Shubert Theatres, as well as the entire Theatre District,” Spaulding said.
The Colonial was designed by the architectural firm of Clarence Blackall and first opened its doors for a performance of Ben-Hur on December 20, 1900. Other shows that later premiered at the Colonial before opening on Broadway include Anything Goes, Porgy and Bess, Oklahoma!, Carousel, Annie Get Your Gun, La Cage aux Folles, and A Little Night Music, among others.
“The Colonial Theatre is a Boston treasure,” said Boston Mayor Thomas M. Menino. “This partnership between Citi Performing Arts Center, Emerson College, and Broadway Across America speaks to the strength and importance of collaboration. I am so excited to be able to once again attend a performance in this beautiful and historic venue,” he said.
Today has been declared “The Gershwins’ Porgy and Bess” Day by Mayor Menino in recognition of the original production’s opening at the Colonial on September 30, 1935. “Broadway Across America is looking forward to working with Citi Performing Arts Center and Emerson College to make sure the Colonial Theatre continues to flourish and serve the community,” said Rich Jaffe, vice president of Broadway in Boston. “We are excited to continue our tradition of presenting Broadway in its historical home in Boston, the Colonial Theatre,” he said.
“For over 30 years, Citi Performing Arts Center has been a wonderful employer and partner to I.A.T.S.E. Local 11,” said John Walsh, business manager, I.A.T.S.E. Local #11. “Although this is a preliminary agreement, we are committed to working with Citi Performing Arts Center, Broadway Across America, and Emerson College to keep the Colonial Theatre lit with Broadway shows and to help develop new competitive working models to expand the types of attractions presented at the Colonial Theatre while providing exciting new programming for Boston audiences.”