The Music Hall in Portsmouth may be 133 years old, but it’s still attracting new audiences.
The theater recently opened The Loft, officially defined as a “center for performing arts, literature and education.” A lofty aspiration, but one that fits the theater’s mission to a T.
The Loft provides additional performance, education and administrative space for The Music Hall. With only 120 seats, the Loft is cozier than the original historic theater. It also offers a sleek, full-service bar in the lobby where you can grab a drink or a snack and bring it to your seat.
The Loft is a plus for the New Hampshire Seacoast and, in a period of shrinking arts support by state and federal governments, a huge boost for the arts.
Music Hall Trustee Barbara Henry, a former newspaper publisher, joined the theater’s board last year and helped raise money for Loft programming. “It’s amazing to have a venue like The Music Hall in Portsmouth,” she says. “You want to be involved. There’s lots of innovation here that other organizations would kill for.”
The Music Hall understands its audiences and connects with them. Programming offers something for everyone: timely films, live music and performance offerings, Writers on a New England Stage, Met@The Music Hall, and kids’ programming. Live event ticket sales are up 67% since 2004; membership has more than tripled in seven years, from 900 households to more than 3,000, and corporate sponsorship is up 56%. That’s a pretty strong connection.
The Music Hall board of trustees and staff understand synergy. Sponsorship opportunities abound for local businesses trying to connect with Music Hall audiences, whether it’s underwriting a performance or sponsoring an event. The Music Hall was a key player in developing Vintage Christmas, a collaboration between Strawbery Banke Museum, the City of Portsmouth, downtown hotels, and the Greater Portsmouth Chamber of Commerce to make Portsmouth a destination in December. In 2008, the theater unveiled its renovated and reconstructed $2.2 million Beaux Arts-inspired lobby, part of its long term plan to establish itself as a premier arts center.
Music Hall Executive Director Patricia Lynch calls the Loft’s opening “a new golden age for this region.” I call it another bravura performance.