‘A place is nothing unless you share it’

‘A place is nothing unless you share it’

The State Ballet of Rhode Island has a new outdoor stage, thanks to a grant from the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation’s “Take It Outside” grant initiative. SBRI will host a Take It Outside Community Performance on the stage on Sunday, Nov. 22, at 1:30 p.m.
Grant helps State Ballet of R. I. move outdoors and bring family dream to life

LINCOLN – The show must go on.

When restrictions due to COVID-19 earlier this year canceled the State Ballet of Rhode Island’s season, organizers had to start to think of new and creative ways to bring dance and entertainment to the community during a pandemic. But who better to get creative than those already involved in the arts?

On Sunday, Nov. 22, at 1:30 p.m., SBRI will host a Take It Outside Community Performance on its new outdoor stage at 52 Sherman Ave., Lincoln.

Ana Marsden Fox, SBRI executive director, said that the outdoor stage is part of a work-in-progress to create what she is calling “The Secret Garden and Community Stage Venue,” something it’s always been her dream to create.

The new stage was made possible through the Rhode Island Commerce Corporation and its “Take It Outside” grant initiative.

When it became apparent that performances in indoor theaters were not going to be allowed due to COVID-19, and that being outdoors was safer, Marsden Fox said thoughts turned to the small outdoor stage on the property that the nonprofit ballet company would use a few times a year.

She said the stage was in very poor shape, and she and organizers were “trying to figure out how to transform our space into a space that is safe for the public and safe for the dancers.”

One of the board members wrote a grant for the Take It Outside initiative, and Marsden Fox said, “a few days later to our surprise,” SBRI received a $35,000 grant.

“We’re very grateful to R.I. Commerce,” she said.

Work has been ongoing, with tree clearing, pulling out rocks, stage building, and making sure the area is safe.

Marsden Fox said the arts community has also come together to help, mentioning friends from the Arctic Playhouse and Russell Gusetti of Blackstone River Theatre lending a hand.

“So many volunteers – we are really volunteer run. We are very grateful for that,” she said.

She also said none of this would be possible without her mother, Artistic Director and Founding Prima Ballerina Herci Marsden, allowing this space on her property.

Marsden Fox said it was always the dream of her grandmother, Eileen Marsden, back in 1954, to have a piece of property where you could have both a school and a theater. The property at 52 Sherman Ave. is home to SBRI’s Brae Crest School of Ballet, but there wasn’t the space for a venue – performances take place at various theaters.

“So I believe that it took from 1954 to now, that I could bring my grandmother’s dream … it came to fruition,” Marsden Fox said. “I feel very proud of that.”

Marsden Fox said her vision is an “intimate setting with art and with nature.”

“Brae Crest is known for its wildlife and tranquil setting,” she said. “But a place is nothing unless you share it, and that’s what we’ve always tried to do here.”

The performance on Nov. 22 will include The State Ballet of Rhode Island, performing Herci Marsden’s Act 3 Ballet Divertissement, from “Coppelia,” with Principal Dancer Ashley Pabon and guest artist Josh Thake, from Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo.

Also performing will be cabaret artist Ida Zecco, with Jim Rice on piano, from The Arctic Playhouse; and The Exiles, of Blackstone River Theatre: Bob Drouin on fiddle and bouzouki, Russell Gusetti on guitar and concertina, Torrin Ryan on uilleann pipes, and step dancer and percussionist Kevin Doyle.

The performance is limited to 80 guests, and all COVID-19 regulations will be in effect. Masks must be worn (Marsden Fox said even dancers will be dancing in masks). She also said the grounds have some heating lamps. Mickey G’s Clam Shack will be in attendance. Grounds will open at 1 p.m.

A rain/snow date of Sunday, Nov. 29, has been set.

Tickets are $30 per person and may be reserved by calling 401-334-2560. Visit www.stateballet.com for more information.

Marsden Fox said SBRI has applied for another round of grants, hoping to be able to do even more with the outdoor performance space.

“I can think of so many things to do on that stage, so much that we can offer,” she said. “I can’t wait to collaborate again.”

Principal dancer Ashley Pabon, of Providence, will perform the lead in the State Ballet of Rhode Island’s outdoor show on Sunday, Nov. 22.
The Exiles, clockwise from left, Bob Drouin, Kevin Doyle, Russell Gusetti and Torrin Ryan, will perform in the SBRI Take It Outside Community Performance on Sunday, Nov. 22.
Soloist dancer Megan Teixeira, of Lincoln, will perform on Sunday, Nov. 22.