Venues disappear for theater downtown

  • Michael Haley, and Stephanie Carlson, perform "The Best Daddy," by Shel Silverstein on the fourth floor of the Arts Block as part of the Greenfield Double-Take Fringe Festival Saturday, October 18. Recorder Staff/Matt Burkhartt Matt Burkhartt

Published: 6/21/2016 6:14:18 PM

The news that Linda McInerney is bidding adieu to producing festivals in downtown Greenfield is one of those bittersweet moments built for the stage.

But it's also a reminder that most good things do come to an end.

McInerney, the driving force behind so many artistic theater productions in the valley, such as the Double Take Fringe Festival in Greenfield, is finding herself shut out of many of the sizeable vacant or underutilized buildings downtown that once served as performance spaces.

“I think I’ve just brought too many people to them or they’ve either been sold or are ready to be demolished, or it’s been too obvious to too many people that they’re not up to code and a blind eye cannot be turned any longer,” McInerney said.

McInerney goes on to say that 17 of the 23 spaces she used over the past couple of years are no longer available. “I knew there would be a shelf life to this, but I didn’t know it would hit all at once.”

But this loss in temporary venues may indicate a gain for downtown Greenfield. Some of these vacant buildings, for example, now have new long-term tenants. Or the building owners are using the spaces for other productive purposes.

Some buildings are no longer available for safety reasons. For example, First National Bank building on Bank Row, where the 2014 production of “Frankenstein” was successfully staged, can no longer be used in the same way because of a decaying roof and other potentially dangerous deterioration.

But if McInerney can no longer stage the kind of festivals and events that she and her production company have become noted for, perhaps there are others artists and creative sorts who can fill in the gaps. The Arts Block, for example, is slowly finding its way again as venue for live performances. Or there’s now Jaume, a new experimental art/performance space in a storefront on Miles Street.

These changes, too, may be what stimulates the conversation in Greenfield that results in what John Lunt, an assistant to the mayor for special projects, called the development of a “flexible space,” one that serves different functions, from a black box theater to a function hall.

With enough creative people and energy getting involved, perhaps this will become a different kind of opportunity for downtown Greenfield rather than a curtain call. If McInerney follows through on plans to exit the downtown festival stage, however, that parting would bring sweet sorrow, indeed.




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