Goodspeed Musicals to begin construction

NEW HAVEN — Goodspeed Musicals, a non-profit legit company in East Haddam, Conn., will begin construction in December on a $5.5 million actor housing project, including what it calls “an Olympic Village-style community for actors.”

Ambitious project could serve as a model for thesp amenities at other regionals.

Longtime exec Michael Price said the initiative reps the biggest capital endeavor at the theater since the Goodspeed Opera House was restored in the early 1960s. Some older housing units will be sold off while newer houses will be built.

Goodspeed Musicals, which also includes the smaller Norma Terris Theater in Chester, will expand total housing from 80 to 109, allowing the theater to accommodate casts plus creative and tech teams for three shows instead of two — thereby creating the capacity to extend hit shows, something the org could not previously do.

There will be 17 “New England-style,” free-standing, environmentally green houses with front porches, most of them around a “town common” area located a short stroll to the theater and rehearsal hall. Some of the buildings will be ready for occupancy by spring, with the rest finished by fall 2010.

Actors will have their own bedroom and bathroom while sharing kitchen and living space with three or four others. Currently some performers have to share a bathroom with as many as four others and a living space with as many as 13. (New housing also will feature two private units for leading actors.)

The limits of housing amenities in the rural area in central Connecticut has been a challenge for the theater organization to attract thesps for its long runs, which can add up to a four month stay.

John Connolly, exec director of thesp union Actors’ Equity Association, called the concept “one-of-a-kind” and “innovative,” adding the Goodspeed project will be a model the union can point to when addressing quality-of-life issues for its members.

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