Champion in Action uses grant money to expand

It was a full house recently at 2nd Story Theatre in Warren for the play "Lobby Hero."

The show is being performed in 2nd Story's new downstairs theater.

Just completed in September, 2nd Story was able to use its $35,000 Champions in Action grant to make it complete.

"We bought seats. We bought new lighting equipment," creative director Ed Shea said.

Now the theater can perform two shows in one night with one play upstairs and another downstairs. They make it work by staggering the start times.

"It allows us to do two very different kinds of plays," Shea said.

The new downstairs theater opens the door creatively by giving the artistic director opportunities he really didn't have before to put on more intimate plays like "Lobby Hero" that rely heavily on dialogue.

"They're plays that I feared would be swallowed up in the upstairs space because there's not a lot of action in the play," Shea said.

The new theatre is about one-third the size of the upstairs space, but the impact is just as large.

"More programming, more jobs for actors, more opportunities," said executive director Lynne Collinson.

Opportunities for people like Ara Boghigian, who's been acting at 2nd Story since 2007.

"I have no desire in the world to go anywhere else. I love it here. I love learning here," Boghigian said.

In addition to the Citizens Bank grant, Collinson said they've gotten quite a boost by the exposure on NBC 10.

"Our box office has said our phone was ringing a lot, and a lot of new customers," Collinson said. "It has raised awareness of 2nd Story from people who maybe never heard of us before."

The goal for 2nd Story is to build on this momentum.

"We'll just try to look at every avenue to grow, but most of all I think we'll do good work. We'll put on good plays," Shea said.

Now the stage is set for 2nd Story to do just that more frequently than they ever could before.

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