Theatre 82, a new venue in Rhode Island’s arts scene, will feature Round Square Festival on May 24 and May 25 from 7 to 11 p.m.
Since Theatre 82’s grand opening on April 5, a theater production has taken place, Improv troupe BYOI has been performing regularly and the space’s tenant-owned Characters Café has acquired regulars. Wellness classes, events and theater productions are booking and Artists’ Exchange’s own summer camps are just around the bend. Plays will be happening, films will be screened and art will be showcased. And on May 24 and 25, Theatre 82 will be taken by song.
Artists’ Exchange Director Elaine McKenna-Yeaw has been busy. Handling the majority of the bookings of Theatre 82, she has been reaching out to the arts community and specifically to those she’d like to be involved in collaborative plans. Singer-songwriter Steve Allain played Artists’ Exchange’s annual Fall Out of Summer Arts Festival and a music festival at its primary Rolfe Square location in recent years, and made an impression.
Yeaw wanted to bring in singer-songwriters and Allain came to mind. She contacted him to see if he would be interested in playing and possibly assisting in programming the venue.
“Not only is Steve an extremely talented musician, he has this amazing attitude and energy. I had a feeling that he would be great to work with,” said Yeaw.
Allain responded with enthusiasm, and an idea for a singer-songwriter weekend. There was no shortage of artists he’d like to feature, and Yeaw identified an available weekend for the event.
The next step was to come up with a name.
“I wanted to call it something that would have a relationship or connection to songwriters specifically, since this was going to be a singer-songwriter weekend. Many songwriter shows are played ‘in the round’ with three or four performers on stage taking turns, but I didn’t want to imply that the whole weekend would be in that format only. Then I thought to call it ‘in the square’ because it is in Rolfe Square. So what I ended up doing is combining the two as a kind of play on words and it sounds kind of funky, which is a good thing – people tend to remember it better,” Allain said of the resulting title, the “In the Round Square Festival.”
As a Rhode Island Songwriters’ Association member, Allain’s presence in the Rhode Island music scene and connections with local performers propelled the project forward, and it wasn’t long before the festival started taking shape.
In a lineup dominated by Americana and folk with touches of jazz and pop, featured artists include Dan Chase, Kate Jones, Brian Minisce, Tracie Potochnik, John Fuzek, Ashley Root, Jack Kennedy, Sara Azriel, Ray Cooke, Lisa Couto, Ian Fitzgerald and Allain.
Many have received nominations or local music awards from Motif Magazine, the Providence Phoenix and Limelight Magazine. Most have released full length CDs or EPs, two of which are recent: Ian Fitzgerald’s full-length CD titled “No Time to Be Tender” was released earlier this year and Sara Azriel’s self-titled EP was just released on April 26. Lisa Couto, Brian Minisce and Jack Kennedy are currently working in the studio on brand new music that will be released soon.
Along with solo careers, a few of the musicians also play in a band: John Fuzek is a member of Neil Young tribute group Forever Young, Kate Jones is a member of all female quartet, The Sugar Honey Iced Tea, and Ashley Root fronts Ashley Root and the Tubers.
“The lineup for both nights is absolutely stellar and is full of artists who I admire,” Allain said. “This type of event is long overdue because this area has such an abundance of unbelievably talented singer-songwriters and that’s what this festival is focused on. And to collaborate with the amazing people at Artists’ Exchange is a real pleasure. I’m looking forward to playing at Theatre 82.”
Advance tickets are $7 per evening or $10 for a weekend pass. At the door, remaining tickets will be sold for $10 and $15, respectively. Theatre 82 is located at 82 Rolfe Square in Cranston. For tickets and more information, visit www.artists-exchange.org.