TheaterWorks Enhances Its Theater, Reputation With Renovation

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When the nearly $6 million makeover of Hartford’s TheaterWorks is completed and revealed in October, it will mark the largest capital project in the theater’s 34-year history.

But in addition to a new audience-enhanced environment, modern mechanical systems and more spacious and adaptable stage, the dramatic renovation is expected to give the theater a higher profile, unequivocally joining the ranks among the major production houses in Connecticut.

Even before construction began last year, TheaterWorks already had many attributes that other Tony Award-winning theaters in the state wished they had — a string of annual surpluses, debt-free status and an enviable subscription base as large as any theater in Connecticut.

“Our two objectives were to improve the artistic and the patron experience,” says Rob Ruggiero, 55, who has been with the theater for 26 years, first as director, then associate artistic director and for the past seven years as producing artistic director, succeeding founder Steve Campo.

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When Ruggiero took over there was accumulated debt of more than $600,000, which was paid off in four years. In 2015, when the theater celebrated its 30th anniversary, it was financially stable, debt-free and running surpluses. It was also patron-strong with around 5,000 subscribers and attracting more than 40,000 audience members a year (the theater seats slightly less than 200 patrons). TheaterWorks earns about 60 to 70 percent of its revenue from ticket sales, which is especially high for nonprofit theaters. It currently has a staff of 19.

The board felt back then that the environment was right to take the theater to the next stage — literally.

“It’s one thing to be safe and stable and another to stand taller in the market,” says Hartford HealthCare Senior Vice President Gerry Lupacchino, who is TheaterWorks’ board president and co-chair of the renovation committee.


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