November 23, 2014
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Saturday gala event is prelude to theater’s 2nd season in Warwick
Jessica A. Botelho
Amiee Turner's passion for the theater and vision for the company

The Ocean State Theatre Company (OSTC) is raising the curtains on their second year at its newest state-of-the-art theatre at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard with a red-carpet fundraiser, “I Dreamed a Dream.”

The event this Saturday will provide guests with an exclusive sneak-peek at the Rhode Island Regional Theatre Premiere performance of “Les Misérables.” The play will run Oct. 2 through the 27, and is based on the 1862 novel of the same name by French poet and playwright Victor Hugo.

The evening will benefit the OSTC’s Live Music Initiative and will feature local cuisine, live and silent auctions, plus dessert, coffee and cocktails with the cast. The city’s Department of Tourism, Culture and Development, along with National Grid, are major sponsors.

“This fundraiser is our first official gala and the idea behind it is to celebrate the hard work of last season and our first full season,” said Amiee Turner, co-founder and producing artistic director of OSTC.

The hope is to raise $16,000 of the company’s annual $80,000 budget for musicians.

“If we could get 20 percent of that raised through these efforts, we would be really excited,” said Turner.

Auction items include travel packages and artwork. But that’s not all.

“We’re going to be auctioning off a walk-on role on one of our shows this season, and also a VIP parking pass for what I lovingly call ‘Princess Parking’ at the theatre,” she said.

As for “Les Misérables,” the production has the highest percentage of local talent the theatre has ever had. Turner also said the design is “really unique.”

“People are used to seeing it a certain way, and it’s going to have a little different flow to it,” she said. “But we are going to be really true to the music. It’s going to sound amazing.”

Other upcoming productions include two more Rhode Island Professional Regional Theatre Premieres, “Lombardi,” a six-person play that highlights the American football player and coach best known for his work with the Green Bay Packers during the 1960s, along with “Miracle on 34th Street,” a musical adaptation of the 1947 Christmas film; “The Diary of Anne Frank,” a play based on the writings of a young girl who was in hiding for two years with her family during the Nazi occupation of the Netherlands; the Neil Simon comedy, “Laughter on the 23rd Floor”; and “The All Night Strut,” a musical celebration of the 1930s and 1940s.

“The season will end with ‘42nd Street,’ which is arguably the biggest, best, most amazing tap dancing musical of all time,” Turner said.

The theatre will be soon starting an educational component, as well. They’ve been in touch with programs like Rhode Island State Council for the Arts, Rhode Island State Council for Humanities and a few other foundations to launch an opportunity for elementary school kids to take tours of the theatre. Students would not only learn about the history of the theatre, but get a grasp of what it takes to put a show together, too.

They’re also looking to middle and high schools about incorporating their production of “The Diary of Anne Frank” as part of the curriculum.

“It’s such a beautiful play,” Turner said. “It’s a really powerful piece of literature and the adaptation is extraordinarily strong. One of the things that I am passionate about is bringing literature to life for everyone, but for kids specifically. This is the perfect opportunity for us to bring that to life for them.”

Not only is Turner excited about the event and the new season, Mayor Scott Avedisian and Tourism, Culture and Development Director Karen Jedson are also looking forward to it. They agree that OSTC is a “wonderful” asset to the city, as it adds value that attracts and retains businesses and visitors.

“As we seek to redevelop the Warwick Station District, the visual and performing arts will play a great role in helping to entice businesses and tourists alike to the area,” said Avedisian, noting that the city has been assisting OSTC through the work of the Tourism, Development, and Culture office. Money that is contributed to the theatre will come from hotel tax revenue that specifically must be spent on attracting visitors and tourists to the city.

“Amiee and [Managing Producer] Joel [Kipper] of Ocean State Theatre have worked with the city on a number of issues to market Warwick, our hotels, and our restaurants,” Avedisian said.

Jedson, whose office has seen several productions at the theatre, including “Santa Diaries,” “Legally Blonde,” “Rent,” “Race,” “Fools,” and “The King and I,” plans to see “Les Misérables.” She said OSTC has increased visitation on many levels.

“Cultural offerings enhance the market appeal of an area, encouraging corporate relocations, generating new jobs and enhancing a destination’s quality of life,” said Jedson. “Not only are our residents, businesses and retail shops benefiting from their offerings, but our out-of-town visitors are enjoying the same benefits, in turn, enhancing Warwick’s image. We at the Department of Tourism, Culture and Development thank the theatre for their inspiration and dedication to our city. We are truly happy to have them and wish them continued success as we look into 2014.”

Turner is grateful for the support. She is optimistic the upcoming season will be just as good, if not better, than the first.

“We had a great first season,” she said. “It was everything we hoped it would be. Every single show outperformed the previous show. People are definitely coming back. We’ve got a lot of great tickets to sell and we’re looking to build our audience. We want to continue with each show outperforming the previous one.”

Tickets to the fundraiser are $125 each, with a table of 10 for $1,000, while $500 will get patron sponsors two tickets, plus recognition, as well as $2,500 for corporate sponsors. For information on sponsorship, tables and tickets, contact the OSTC development office at development@ostcri.org or call 921-1777, extension 113. Visit OceanStateTheatre.org for more information.


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