Editorial: Theater company deserves better than eviction

Posted 4/22/21

Perhaps this drama will have a happy ending, but the plot to pry the Bristol Theatre Company from its home in the former Reynolds School building feels unnecessarily dark.

First, the theater …

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Editorial: Theater company deserves better than eviction

Posted

Perhaps this drama will have a happy ending, but the plot to pry the Bristol Theatre Company from its home in the former Reynolds School building feels unnecessarily dark.

First, the theater company, along with a handful of other tenants, were told they must vacate the premises last fall because the Bristol Warren school district might need the space. The district was worried it would need more room to expand its classrooms, in the event too many families decided to send their children back into buildings in the middle of the school year.

The reason seemed dubious at the time, and it turned out to be completely false. As expected, Covid-19 cases spiked in the winter, hundreds of families kept their children home, and the district never needed the extra space.

Every tenant within the town-owned building packed up and moved out, except the theater company. Hoping they might find a way to coexist with the schools — and with no place else to go — they stayed put.

Then came a second eviction notice, this one a combined effort of town and school. Now the two government entities are talking about converting Reynolds into a shared government center, with town and school offices under one roof, and the theater company really must go.

It seems town officials are now trying to help find a new home for the theater company — not a simple task. Not to say Reynolds was the perfect home, but it has a lot of attributes not easy to find: affordable rent, a stage, space for a crowd, and years of sweat equity from volunteers who shaped the space to fit their needs. Hopefully the theater company and this community will find an alternative.

There are many reasons why a town becomes a community, and many reasons housing values rise the way they have here. A list of the top 10 attributes of this community would start with its harbor and waterways, its historic homes and its world-class museums, but somewhere on the list would be its vibrant arts community, and the theater company would be one of the featured attractions.

An amateur company that welcomes performers of all ages and stages high-quality productions is a rarity. Bristol is blessed to have one — though at the moment, it has no home.

2021 by East Bay Newspapers

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Scott Pickering

Scott Pickering has been on the East Bay Newspapers team for more than two decades, since starting as a reporter for the Sakonnet Times. He's been editor of most of the papers, was Managing Editor of all the papers for many years, and became General Manager in 2012. Today he can be found posting to EastBayRI.com, steering news coverage, writing editorials, talking to readers, working with the sales team, collaborating on design, or helping do whatever it takes to get the papers out the door. Reach him at spickering@eastbaynewspapers.com.