‘Just one of those special places’: New Shea director charts course for future of theater

  • Linda Tardif, managing director of the Shea Theater Arts Center, in the Turners Falls performance space. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Linda Tardif, managing director of the Shea Theater Arts Center, in the Turners Falls performance space. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

  • Linda Tardif, managing director of the Shea Theater Arts Center, in the Turners Falls performance space. Recorder Staff/Paul Franz

Recorder Staff
Published: 2/3/2017 11:00:47 PM

TURNERS FALLS — When Linda Tardif walked into the Shea Theater for the first time, she knew there was something different about the place.

“It was just one of those special places, where you walk in and feel like home,” she said.

Tardif is the new director of the Shea and is coming into her position as the Shea comes to a crossroads: the board of the theater has completed much of the renovations, and is beginning to take on more projects with the aim of embracing the Shea’s role in downtown Turners Falls and the broader western Massachusetts community.

Tardif started officially Jan. 1 but had been working with the board as the house manager of the theater under interim director Penny Burke, who was assisting from the Northampton Center for the Arts.

The theater is approaching its first anniversary since renovations began and the theater reopened in March 2016.

Josh Goldman, treasurer of the board, said the renovations were a community effort, where many came forward and pitched in to make the project possible. As the Shea moves forward, a big effort will be on expanding programming and uses for the space.

“It’s an invitation for people to come and bring ideas for what they want to see happen in the theater,” he said.

Tardif said the majority of the renovations happened over a 90-day period and finished in March of 2016, but they have been continuing to make improvements and add more to the space.

The board organized and led the renovation efforts in conjunction with the town and donors. The entire lobby was redone and includes artwork and new lighting as well as new flooring, a box office and a bar. The staircase in the lobby is a bright cherry red and artwork is hung throughout the lobby and from the ceilings, with new light fixtures designed by local artist Peter Kitchell.

The theater recently added new seating from the Hallmark School of photography and the sound system was just installed. Next will be a new lighting system and an exterior marquee sign.

“This is the community’s theater, they really stepped up to make this happen,” he said. “They should feel proud and invited to stay involved,” Goldman said.

Goldman said there will be more information to come about the Shea, which has a website and a calendar where people can see upcoming events and request information about booking.

Tardif and the board are now turning their focus to programming, and getting a wide array of shows and acts to perform at the theater. The group hopes to turn the Shea into a stop for national tours between New York and Boston.

The leadership of the theater is also hopeful that they will have a liquor license in the coming months. The town of Montague supported and approved the application and the Shea is waiting on approval from the state. The license will make help the theater book acts.

A return to the valley

Tardif comes from a theater background and studied at UMass and worked for several years in New York City before deciding to return to the valley. She wants to open the Shea up to local theater residencies and as a practice and performance space for local theater troupes.

The main goal is to have the theater open as much as possible to the public. Tardif said the theater, and the lobby can be used for anything from a practice space, to a rock concert or employee training.

“So that the theater is just open more and more,” she said. “That it’s always just bustling.”

She said she wants to continue the board’s mission and make the theater a place that is accessible to all. One of the theater’s first events this year was taking part in the national ghost light event at theaters across the country. It was held in partnership with several local theater groups. The aim of the event was to reaffirm the theater as an accepting place where anyone is welcome, in light of the current political climate.

“I’m so excited about being this space where we can successfully do these events that make the community feel the same feeling I had when I walked in here,” she said.

The Shea will be hosting Eugene Mirman with special guest Maeve Higgins on Thursday at 7:30 p.m. Tickets are $20.

For more information, visit SheaTheater.org.


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