Ridgefield Playhouse’s ongoing renovations mark first major improvements in 22 years

RIDGEFIELD — The buzzing of saws and banging of hammers could be heard from down the hall as Allison Stockel sifted through a pile of schematics on her desk.

The plans reflected a series of enhancements coming to The Ridgefield Playhouse. The renovations mark the storied venue’s first major capital campaign since opening in 2000.

“This is the very first time in 22 years that we’ve done any capital … improvements, and we only are doing one,” said Stockel, the executive director. “This is the only time that we’re going … to ask people to get us to the next level.”

The $6 million campaign is being funded through private donations. The Playhouse has already raised more than half of that ask, with the remaining dollars expected to come from naming opportunities.

Stockel walked this reporter through the existing lobby and backstage areas, both of which are getting a face-lift.

For patrons, the size of the lobby will expand threefold. A large portion of the building is being converted to support a permanent bar, a larger concession area, bigger bathrooms and a small stage for pre-show entertainment.

This footprint formerly housed offices for Ridgefield’s Board of Education, which were relocated to the Venus Building next door.

The box office will also be built out to allow for external access, Stockel said.

To retain the charm of the old lobby, which features picturesque paintings of Main Street, local artists Christopher Curnan and Norvel Hermanovski will produce murals for the new space, Stockel said.

For performers, the Playhouse is revamping its amenities backstage.

The current set up is a bit of hindrance when accommodating bigger shows, Stockel explained. Marketing Manager Lisa Barrett noted that sometimes curtains have to be hung to create makeshift dressing rooms. The lack of a proper hospitality area also poses an issue.

“We’ve had Pat Benatar, Willie Nelson, amazing people come through our doors, and we feed them in the hallway,” she said. “Getting to the next level means creating a proper backstage for all of this talent.”

A brand-new dressing room will be tacked on to the existing chorus dressing room. One of the offices backstage, which formerly housed the marketing department, will be converted into a hospitality area.

The former special education office will become the venue’s new VIP room, which connects to backstage. This area will serve as a place for future meet-and-greets as well as party rental space to be utilized by sponsors, Barrett said.

The administrative offices were moved to the second floor of the building — also former BOE space — which includes spacious areas for workshops, storage and meetings.

Stockel regarded the enhancements as a “game-changer” for the venue.

“To continue doing what we do, this is necessary,” she said.

The Playhouse is planning to unveil the expanded lobby space at its Summer Gala with Chaka Khan on June 11. Those interested in contributing to the capital campaign or who want to inquire about naming opportunities can email Stockel at allison@ridgefieldplayhouse.org.