Ridgefield Playhouse Rockin' Into Future, Plans for Expansion, Improvements

Did you know? Approximately 200 shows take place at The Ridgefield Playhouse annually.

From concerts to plays, educational events and movies, the Playhouse is synonymous with outstanding entertainment - close to home. The Playhouse is also synonymous with revenue growth for the Town.

Ridgefield Playhouse Executive Director, Allison Stockel estimates that the Playhouse brings 100K people per year to Ridgefield which equates to approximately 3 million dollars in income for the Town.

A few weeks ago, the State of Connecticut released a report detailing the economic impact of the arts and culture in Connecticut.  “The nonprofit arts and culture industry in Connecticut currently generates more than 13 times the local government and state government revenues than the national average,” said Kip Bergstrom, deputy commissioner of DECD. State officials also agreed that “a vibrant arts community not only keeps residents and their discretionary spending close to home, it also attracts visitors who spend money and help local businesses thrive.”

Some of the greatest musicians in the world have not only performed in Ridgefield, Connecticut, but they’ve shopped here and dined in our restaurants! Kudos goes to Stockel who has brought renowned artists to Ridgefield. The list of musical notables is lengthy, here are just some: Southside Johnny (shown in photo with Stockel), Bruce Hornsby, George Thorogood, Colbie Callait, Brett Michaels, Boz Scaggs, Judy Collins, kd Lang, Willie Nelson, Smokey Robinson, Steven Stills, David Crosby, and The Beach Boys. And, they return, year after year.

But, the Playhouse is at capacity, in more ways than one. In order to continue hosting performers of this caliber, changes must be implemented - soon.

The 500 seat Playhouse is bursting at its artistic seams. The lobby can only hold 150 people, the band member eat in the hallway, the performers only have one dressing room, and the stage pulley system is nearly ninety years old.

“We need to expand the lobby for the patron experience. We need to expand backstage for the artist experience,” says Stockel, who adds, “Comparable theaters have four dressing rooms, we have one. We need a place to feed the acts, a proper place for production to happen, and space for private meet and greet events,” says Stockel.

It’s time for a Playhouse makeover and the wheels are in motion for the Playhouse to expand into the existing Board of Education space.

“We’ve always done a really good job making due, but we need proper things that every other theater at our level has - it needs to be a professional-grade theater,” says Stockel.

What won’t change? The 500 seat theater. “We are not trying to get bigger,” says Stockel. The theater is intimate, it’s perfect, and Stockel says, “Performers love the theater, they feed off the energy of our amazing audience.”

So, what will happen if the Playhouse doesn’t expand and make necessary improvements?

Stockel says, “We will have to change the paradigm of the playhouse, we can’t function. It will become a smaller theater. We either change the way we operate or we need to upgrade to where it needs to be to continue the path we are on.”

Next steps? “We haven’t approached funders, we are going to be looking for people to help us with this capital campaign. We will begin talking with people now, and until the first quarter of 2018. Our hope is that we will be able to raise the money,” says Stockel.

“We need to get this done. We need help getting it done, and we hope that the Town realizes the value we bring, not just the arts, but from an economic standpoint,” says Stockel.