This ain’t Hartford Stage. Not the Bushnell either.
Hartford’s latest performance space is in The Hollander, located at 410 Asylum Street. This building has ground floor commercial space; above is a mix of market-rate and affordable apartment units. While most of the apartments are occupied, the same can not be said for the commercial space. From Asylum Street and High Street, pedestrians can view what is an all too familiar sight downtown– vacant storefronts.
Now, HartBeat Ensemble is using one of the spaces for the next few months, bringing some life to the spot.
This Thursday, March 3rd, HartBeat Ensemble will be hosting Improv Idol — a competition between several improv groups, including one from Yale. From April 28-May 21st, this same space will be used for Flipside, HartBeat Ensemble’s spoken word play about the war on drugs.
Yesterday afternoon, HartBeat allowed the Center Without Walls to use the performance space for MASQUE. The MASQUE Theatre Company is comprised of Larry Hunt and Adelka Polak, who perform (mostly) non-verbally with masks that they create. Saturday’s free show evoked amused shrieks from the children who made up about half of the audience. The vignettes included grotesque masks, some audience participation, and a visit from lemurs. Later in the show Adelka performed barefoot on the concrete floor; even though they turned the heat on before the performance, most people kept their coats on inside.
Reusing old factories and buildings for art spaces is not a new concept, but all others I’ve seen have been more finished. Artistic-looking ducts and pipes might be left exposed, but the wiring tends to be covered and walls are sheetrocked. Instead of waiting around for all of that to happen with this space, HartBeat has been using it, mostly as they found it, making some improvements for safety. Without any fancy signage or decor, people managed to find the spot and enjoy themselves. There’s a thought: people do not require upscale amenities to be drawn downtown.