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OPERA HOUSE PLAYERS

2022-05-24 | HOPE TREMBLAY

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For more than five decades, the Opera House Players have provided high-quality entertainment to theater-lovers and they plan to continue to grow as the group renovates their new home in Enfield.

Executive Director Susan Choquette said that with a $1.5 million state grant, the OHP board is embarking on a major renovation at 100 High St., a former church.

“We are so excited to make 100 High St. our permanent home,” said Choquette. “Our renovation project has kicked off and we are well into the planning phase.”

The group is working with architect Tom Douglas and Altieri for engineering services. They are also in the process of vetting theatrical lighting and sound consultants.

“Our projected timeline is to break ground in late fall of this year, with an anticipated opening in August 2023,” Choquette said. “We are hoping to have our first production be the November 2023 show.”

The Opera House Players started in Enfield in 1968 in the basement of St. Martha’s Church. Known as the St. Martha’s Players, the group outgrew the space and relocated to the Broad Brook Opera House in 2003. In celebration of their 50th anniversary in 2018, the Players returned to their hometown and came nearly full-circle, performing in the annex of the church at 100 High St. where they will continue to perform until the rest of the building is renovated.

Choquette said she is very excited about the future and the renovation.

“It's a unique and beautiful space with the many stained glass windows,” she said. “We will be transforming the former sanctuary into the performance space with a proscenium stage and stadium seating. An all new lobby area, green room, and set shop space will also be part of the construction plans.”

Choquette said the theater and stage will be fully accessible.

“We were thrilled to receive the $1.5 million state bond to help fund the renovation,” she noted. “The bond, together with other grants and private donations will fund the renovation. A capital campaign and long-term development plan are also in the works.”

The vision of the OHP is to provide Broadway quality, affordable musical theater to the community. The mission is to attract the top local talent and reach the broadest audience with our productions, in a theater that is comfortable and inviting as well as to provide an outlet for innovative, creative and artistic expression and engage the community for cultural enrichment and long term sustainability of the theater.

One of the oldest groups in the area performing exclusively musical theatre, OHP is a registered nonprofit that performs four shows a season, with a variety ranging from comedy to drama, contemporary to classic, as well as multiple fundraisers a year. Choquette said the variety of performances is important.

“We always make sure there is something for everyone,” she stated.

Choquette became part of OHP in 2015 when her husband and daughter were cast in the OHP production of “Fiddler on the Roof.”

“I got involved with that production as prop master and stage manager,” she said. “My whole family fell in love with the theater, and The Opera House Players became our theater home. From there I joined the board in 2016 and have been heavily involved ever since. I served as board president from 2017-2020 and then became executive director in the fall of 2021.”

Choquette leads the all-volunteer board of directors, which currently has eight members. In addition to the board, there is an artistic committee headed by the executive producer that sets the artistic agenda for the organization.

Choquette said in keeping with their mission, OHP produces exclusively musical theater and each production is cast through an open audition process -- no roles are pre-cast.

“Last year we produced our first annual summer youth production, ‘Shrek,’ cast entirely with youth ages 10-22. This summer our production is ‘The Little Mermaid’,” said Choquette.

The OHP building renovation is not only a major milestone for the group, but also much-anticipated by those in the Thompsonville neighborhood.

“The revitalization on Thompsonville has been on the forefront of the Enfield agenda for a long time,” Choquette said. “The arts are always the cornerstone of community development. Not only does it help bring cultural enrichment and involvement to the community, but also helps increase business to local restaurants and shops. Soon the new train station and park will be constructed as well in Thompsonville.

“We are proud to be a large part of the revitalization effort in Thompsonville.”

Choquette said it is literally a dream come true.

“The renovation of 100 High St. has been our dream since we moved here in 2018,” she said. “It has taken us a while to get to this point, but we're finally starting the process and we are 100% invested in this. We are so excited to be a part of this community!”

For more information on upcoming productions, visit operahouseplayers.org

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