PAWTUCKET, R.I. (WPRI) – The Sandra Feinstein-Gamm Theatre on Pawtucket’s Exchange Street is moving south to Warwick, where it will take over the former home of Ocean State Theatre Company.
The Gamm announced Friday it will make the move in time for the launch of its 2018-19 season, finishing out the remainder of its current season at the Pawtucket Armory space it’s occupied since 2003.
“Since 2011 The Gamm has been looking for a permanent space to accommodate its growing audiences and educational programming,” Gamm Managing Director Oliver Dow said in a statement.
“Our primary goal was to find a space that could improve the conditions for our artists while maintaining the theatrical experience to which our audience has become accustomed,” he said. “This is a once in a lifetime opportunity for The Gamm to re-light an existing dark theater while making a substantial capital investment in our artistic mission.”
The Warwick theater on Jefferson Boulevard was vacated by Ocean State Theatre Company (OSTC) in May, when that group announced its abrupt closure.
Court documents obtained by Eyewitness News in May showed the owner and lessor of the building filed a formal complaint and eviction notice, saying OSTC owed $860,908.58 in back rent and additional charges.
Ocean State Theatre Company had been leasing the converted garage on Jefferson Boulevard since 2012.
Eyewitness News has learned the Gamm wasn’t the only arts organization interested in the Warwick space. Bill Hanney, owner of Theatre by the Sea in Matunuck, said Friday he had been in conversations with the landlord of the Jefferson Boulevard theater for close to two years, long before OSTC vacated. Hanney said he was very interested in taking over the new venue and had made a lease-to-own offer after OSTC closed.
But Hanney said he withdrew his offer two weeks ago, saying the deal was taking too long to finalize.
“We really would have been a good fit there,” Hanney said. “I know people like plays, but they love musicals.”
Hanney said he had planned to renovate the interior and exterior of the building and add a restaurant, saying he wanted to “make it really special.”
“We had really grand plans,” said Hanney, who planned to open his inaugural season with Sandy Hackett’s “The Rat Pack.”
Hanney said he’s looking at other venues in Rhode Island where he could bring musicals to more audiences. He said audiences have been growing at Theatre by the Sea, but the relatively small former barn limits what shows can be done in the seaside performance space.
“There’s so many titles we really want to do,” he said. “We’re going to look around.”
Gamm officials said they plan to renovate the Warwick theater.
Warwick Mayor Scott Avedisian said he eagerly anticipates The Gamm’s move to Warwick City Centre.
“We are excited to welcome this award-winning theater as the arts anchor of our ‘city on the move,'” Avedisian said. “I am truly looking forward to forging a great relationship with The Gamm and seeing Jefferson Boulevard become a cultural destination for the city and the state.”
Steve Soscia, the landlord for the Jefferson Boulevard theater, could not immediately be reached for comment.