RI gives $100,000 to build temporary outdoor stage for Festival Ballet’s Nutcracker

Festival Ballet Providence (FBP) is proud to announce a once in a generation project for a time like no other. On October 1, 2020, Rhode Island Governor Gina Raimondo and RI Commerce announced Festival Ballet is the recipient of a $100,000 grant award to fund the creation of a temporary outdoor performing arts venue in the heart of the East Side of Providence for three weeks in December. The grant, part of the State’s “Take It Outside” Initiative, would fund the construction of a state-of-the-art outdoor concert stage, socially distanced seating, and outdoor heating elements for the comfort of both audiences and performers.

“This is a great day for the arts in Rhode Island,” said Kathleen Breen Combes, FBP Executive Director. “In funding this project, the state is allowing us to hire dozens of artists, technicians and arts professionals who have been out of work for months due to the pandemic.” The concert space will occupy the entire parking lot of FBP’s East Side Facility (825 Hope St., Providence RI) and will feature socially distanced seating, outdoor heaters for the comfort of audience members, and a 32 foot wide elevated concert stage with sprung floor, heating system and a roof rising 25 feet off the ground for the rigging of lights and scenic elements.

“In funding this ambitious proposal and project, we deeply appreciate the message from the government leadership about how vital and essential the arts are in the recovery from this economic crisis,” said Alan Weiss, FBP Board President.

The Company will use the venue as a space to present a reimagining of the beloved holiday classic, The Nutcracker, which has been an annual tradition in Providence for more than 40 years. “It’s going to be quite a different production than what audiences are used to seeing at PPAC, but these are unique times,” said Breen Combes. “I’m excited to see all of our community of artists, from the Company dancers to choreographers, rehearsal directors, and students, rise to the occasion in this special opportunity.” The Company will also make the space available when not in use to outside performing arts organizations to use for their own holiday programming. “We are delighted to continue our longstanding tradition of collaborating with our artistic community and bringing artists together,” Breen Combes said.

Additionally, the grant includes major purchases of goods such as a modular sprung floor system which will allow FBP to continue using the grant funding for future programming, such as outdoor classes and performances in the spring and summer, in-school presentations, and site-specific dance experiences.

The project will mean the return of many of the FBP Company of dancers and crew who have largely been furloughed since March when the pandemic struck, and all shows were cancelled. “In providing this performing space, the State is allowing us to bring back some of the holiday traditions and magic that our community knows and loves,” Breen Combes said, adding, “With indoor theaters across our state dark, I’m delighted that this performance space will illuminate and inspire audiences and artists in this unique period for our entire community.”

An announcement of programming and ticket on sale date is forthcoming.

About Alan Weiss

On August 1st, Alan Weiss, of East Greenwich, was voted president and chair of the Board of Trustees of Festival Ballet Providence. Weiss is a global business consultant who has authored over 50 books, translated into 15 languages, on performance and business success. A major article detailing his coaching of top executives, “The CEO Whisperer,” was published by CNBC last month. His clients have included JP Morgan/Chase, Textron, Hewlett-Packard, IBM, Merck, and over 200others, and his work has taken him to over 60 countries. “I’m honored to serve in a leadership capacity for Festival Ballet Providence,” noted Weiss, “because I think the company creates and produces some of the finest performing art in the entire Northeast.”

About Festival Ballet location

Festival Ballet is located in a one-story building at 825 Hope Street on the East Side of Providence (across from Seven Stars Bakery), in what once was a Jewish funeral home, in a tight 9,500 square foot indoor space. The attached parking lot is approximately 4,600 square feet.

More about Festival Ballet

Festival Ballet is New England’s second largest professional ballet company with a resident company of 30 dancers, a pre-professional school with more than 300 enrolled students, and extensive educational and community initiatives reaching more than 13,000 youth annually, making it one of the leading arts organizations in the region.

Originally conceived by the late Lydia Petine, Festival Ballet was founded in 1978 by Christine Hennessey and Winthrop Corey, former principal dancers with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Ms. Hennessey worked tirelessly to develop and grow the young company, bringing in talented international choreographers while also working with the local community to advance dance education and appreciation for dance.

Ms. Hennessey led the company artistically until her death in 1997. After her passing, her daughter, Elizabeth acted as the interim artistic director. In the summer of 1998, after an international search for her successor, Mihailo “Misha” Djuric was hired. At the same time, the Board of Trustees purchased the Dance Center from the Hennessey family, making it an integral part of this non-profit performing arts organization.

In September 2001, the newly renamed Festival Ballet Providence moved to its current home, 825 Hope Street, on Providence’s historic East Side.

In May of 2019, FBP announced a new Executive Director, Kathleen Breen Combes. A principal dancer with Boston Ballet since 2009, Breen Combes retired from dancing in September.

About the Take It Outside RI

The Rhode Island Commerce Corporation (“Corporation”) seeks proposals from eligible entities, as identified herein (“Eligible Entities”), to receive grants under the “Take it Outside” initiative(“TIO Initiative”), a statewide effort designed to encourage and increase outdoor activities for all Rhode Islanders in an effort to reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19. Expert agencies such as the World Health Organization believe that the coronavirus may linger in the air in crowded indoor spaces, spreading from one person to the next. A recent Japanese study of 100 cases found that the odds of catching the coronavirus is nearly 20 times higher indoors than outdoors. Outdoor gatherings lower the risk of catching the coronavirus because wind disperses viral droplets and sunlight can kills some of the virus.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has stated that indoor spaces are more risky than outdoor spaces where it might be harder to keep people apart and there is less ventilation. In addition to the State making State-owned land available for fitness classes, outdoor meetings, recreational activities, and outdoor office spaces equipped with WiFi internet, the TIO Initiative will provide $1 million in total grants, which will be in an amount of up to $150,000, to Eligible Entities to fund the cost of eligible expenses, as defined herein (“Eligible Expenses”), associated with the expansion of businesses to outdoor, public spaces—such as closed streets, sidewalks, and parking lots—in an effort to reduce the transmission rate of COVID-19 while increasing economic activity. Additional information on the TIO Initiative can be found

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