Last Saturday’s performance of “Charlotte’s Web” at The Old Theater in downtown Lowell was not just a cute kid’s show put on by a local homeschool group. It was like a “dream come true,” according to theater owners, and a promise of future similar endeavors.
David and Lisa Reed own The Old Theater at 315 W. Main St. and opened the long-neglected building last spring for small acts, rental space, and limited activities. It is currently well-known for its prominent marquee and for hosting “clean” comedy shows, musical acts, and monthly community line, swing, and square dances.
However, hosting a theater production is what this space, as with any theater, was made for.
In front of a standing-room-only crowd of almost 300 people, the 18 young cast members from the Lowell Interactive Network for Kids — known as LINK — performed the full production of “Charlotte’s Web,” which was a one and a-half hour show.
The cast and crew, who are ages 9-17, are homeschooled. And though there is currently no main curtain on the front of the stage, which traditionally starts and ends the acts of a theater play, the group had no problem entertaining the larger-than-expected audience.
The Reed family has been involved with LINK for 18 years. Lisa served as the director of the production, and David managed the technical crew. Lisa says watching the kids perform a show she directed in her own theater was thrilling.
“By the time I got to finally sit back and watch the show, after it was standing room only and friends had to hurry off to find more chairs for guests to sit in, it was a joy to watch.” she explains.
Lisa says the production was attended mostly by relatives and friends of the children involved, but it also did what they were hoping: It reached out to the Lowell community.
She notes many people came and brought their children because it was a Lowell event – something The Old Theater wants to do more of.
Restoring and renovating the building, which was originally built in 1928 and used for vaudeville shows and “talking pictures” of that time, is a goal for the Reeds. Lisa said hosting the LINK group helped them identify ways to improve the space specifically for stage productions.
“Scheduling a show was the kick in the pants we needed to clean out the backstage area to accommodate all the kids and props and sets,” she says. “Working with a live cast gave David the chance to observe our current sound and light equipment and determine what changes he might like to implement for future productions.”
In spite of the many challenges ahead for the Reeds and their building, they plan to continue forward with prioritizing renovations and repairs while creatively coming up with ways to bless the community and create interest with the space.
Lisa says there is a lot of interest in using the building for future theater productions, and she and her husband are working to make the space more user-friendly.
“We have this space, this antique stage, and it needs to be used.” she says.