The closing of Ed Shea’s 2nd Story Theatre in Warren on July 1 is a sad day for theatre in Rhode Island.
We have been following the theatre since its early days in 1978, over a bar in Newport, to its move to the basement of a church in Providence and then to its final home in Warren.
Over the past 40 years I have reviewed hundreds of plays, many directed by Shea and his late partner, Pat Hegnauer, most of them favorably.
Last year was a difficult one for the theatre. Many actors and staff left for other theatres like Burbage, Wilbury and Epic. Shea put much time, effort and money into the opening of a new restaurant on the first floor.
My review of last summer’s two plays contained the following criticism: “Not up to 2nd Story’s high standards.” In the fall, Shea made the decision not to invite critics to his productions. I was taken off the mailing list and no longer drove to Warren. Mark Peckham said he looked into the audience and did not see me, noting that I had reviewed (usually quite favorably) over 40 of the plays he had directed.
Looking back over the plays I had reviewed, from A.R. Gurney’s “The Dining Room,” directed by Hagnauer and starring Shea and Tom Roberts, through Tom Griffin’s “The Boys Next Door,” directed by Shea, I had experienced a wide variety of classic theatre in intimate settings.
While new theatres seem to pop up frequently, the loss of one of Rhode Island’s oldest is a loss to Rhode Island’s growing arts tradition and to a most talented man. Hopefully, Ed Shea will find his way back into the theatre world.