Ocean State Theatre Company says 'goodbye' to Matunuck, focuses now on Warwick


What’s been in negotiations since last summer is finally settled – Ocean State Theatre Company will no longer be the producing entity at Theatre by the Sea.

“We found out very recently, about a week ago,” said Amiee Turner, the producing artistic director and president of Ocean State Theatre Company in an interview Friday.

Now, Bill Hanney, the owner of Theatre by the Sea, will step into the role of producer at the venue.

Turner said she could not speak on why Hanney made the decision; she said what she knew was outlined in a press release sent by Ocean State Theatre Company late Friday morning.

“Based on my recent experience as owner and producer at North Shore Music Theatre and my desire to share productions between the two venues, I have decided to take on the responsibility for productions at Theatre By The Sea,” said Hanney, who also operates North Shore Music Theatre in Massachusetts, in a press release. “I want to thank Ocean State Theatre Company for their commitment over the past five years in bringing live theatre back to the Theatre By The Sea stage and wish them great success with their new venture in Warwick.”

Hanney was not immediately available for comment.

Ocean State Theatre Company (OSTC) has been the producing entity at the historic Matunuck barn playhouse since its re-opening in 2007. Since then, the company has been on a year-to-year contract, with the exception of a two-year contract from 2010 to 2012.

Turner said she is “personally disappointed” with Hanney’s decision. Still, she’s trying to look on the bright side, and said the goal of OSTC was to ensure that Theatre by the Sea re-opened and stayed open.

“Ocean State Theatre Company was formed to re-open Theatre by the Sea,” she said. “The important thing for people that love Theatre by the Sea is that it will be open next year. In that regard, we’re very happy.”

Now Turner said OSTC’s focus will be on their new Warwick venue, which is set to open in December.

The Warwick Beacon ran a story in January outlining the possibility that OSTC’s contract with Theatre by the Sea would not be renewed, and there was speculation that the timing of their purchase of a new space in Warwick coincided with their imminent break from Theatre by the Sea.

But Turner said OSTC had been looking for a new building for three years, citing the impermanency of their lease agreement as a reason to branch out. The timing of the opening of what they hoped would be a second location could be viewed as either “fortuitous or coincidental,” said Turner.

OSTC had planned to produce theater at their Warwick location during Theatre by the Sea’s off-season, but what was originally supposed to be nine months of theatrical programming may very well become twelve.

“It’s on the table,” said Turner.

Turner said things are on track for a December opening at the former Verizon warehouse located at 1245 Jefferson Boulevard. Turner said subscriber ticket sales have been going well, and that groundbreaking for an orchestra pit and an under-stage “trap room” is slated for the end of the month.

The season at the new Warwick space will begin with two holiday shows in December. Turner said auditions will be held in the fall and are likely to be announced after October 1. 

According to a banner on the grounds of Theatre by the Sea, the 2013 summer season will include the musicals "Cats," "La Cage Aux Faux," "Annie" and "Nunsense."

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