PROVIDENCE — McVinney Auditorium, set within the vibrant downtown Providence theater and arts district, is alive and well. The newly renovated, 750-seat space boasts the latest technology and is welcoming neighbors from around the state to see all that it has to offer.
Since it’s renovation in 2015, a wide-variety of events have taken the stage. McVinney Auditorium, an entity of the Diocese of Providence, became the home for important discussion when it hosted the Union of Concerned Scientists in their forum on global nuclear arms in September. With theatrical moving sets and colorful costumes, the auditorium laid the foundation for Providence Ballet to bring “The Night Before Christmas” to life in December. And a roar of applause filled the space as the students of St. Pius V shined in their production of “The Lion King, Jr.,” back in April.
McVinney Auditorium was a great find for Rhode Island Chamber Music, who have been presenting public concerts around the state since the 1950s.
“Every year the series brings some of the world’s top chamber music ensembles to town — the same groups that play sold-out concerts at Carnegie Hall in New York and Wigmore Hall in London — but thanks to the generosity of our audience, and state grants, we have been able to bring them right to your doorstep,” said Joseph Correia, past president and current member of the Board of Directors of Rhode Island Chamber Music Concerts.
Over the years RICMC has presented its concerts in a number of locations, Correia explained, and added that they were looking for a central location that would serve a wider audience.
“McVinney Auditorium has been a perfect fit. Although the hall seats more than 750 people, it is divided into two large sections, and we find that the lower section beautifully accommodates our audience. Everyone is seated close to the stage and that intimacy is exactly what you strive for in chamber music performance. Other great perks of the hall are the dedicated box office by the front entrance and a professional sound and lighting technician. The staff of McVinney Auditorium is very professional, and has been cooperative and responsive to our specific needs,” Correia said.
Since moving to McVinney Auditorium in October, Correia said that RICMC has experienced an increase in both season subscriptions and single ticket sales, which he feels is largely due to the central downtown location and, importantly, to the abundant free parking right next to the hall.
Helen Baskerville-Dukes, owner and founder of Inspired By Grace Productions said that moving their theatrical productions to McVinney Auditorium allowed her to expand her business because the facility could accommodate and reach a larger audience.
“We were very excited about using the film projection, which gave us the ability to entertain beyond the stage into film production because the facility in most cases is technologically up-to-date and the support staff was eager to help us utilize those resources,” said Baskerville-Dukes. “Our patrons express to us how they absolutely embraced the warm-inviting feeling and the comfortable accommodations the facility offers. We’ve made McVinney Auditorium our home for the year with three more theatrical productions. We look forward to growing with the auditorium.”
Two weeks before the scheduled opening night for “Lion King, Jr.,” the Drama Club Program at St. Pius V was forced to find a different venue than originally planned,” explained Kevin Peloquin, the school’s drama director.
“I called up Bishop McVinney Auditorium and amazingly, the staff was able to squeeze us into their schedule and we were able to have our three shows there,” said Peloquin. “We are so lucky to have a space like Bishop McVinney Auditorium in our diocese.”
St. Pius V once again took the McVinney stage in last weekend’s production of “Peter Pan Jr.,” and Peloquin explained that the first time his students walked into the auditorium they were astounded.
“How awesome is it that we get to offer our middle school students such an amazing venue in which to perform? Real stadium seating, a professional sound booth, great lighting options. I would say that my favorite part of utilizing the McVinney space is just that, that I get to watch the kids feel like professional actors and actresses up there on that stage. It’s every middle school drama director’s dream.”
Peloquin added that a great aspect about utilizing McVinney Auditorium is the staff, who he said have been very accommodating and helpful at brainstorming creative solutions to any production issues.
“They are very responsive, are willing to do everything they can to work with your production needs, and are just all around great people,” he said.
McVinney Auditorium is an important place for both performance and evangelization, explained Louise Dussault, staff supervisor. She added that the auditorium promotes positive opportunities in the arts.
“The Catholic Church needs to be a place where beauty and art are celebrated, affirmed,” she said. “Many Catholics in history were great artists and the Catholic Church has always been at the forefront of nurturing the arts. The bishop wanted to provide a beautiful space here for good things to happen.”
Dussault described the auditorium as “elegant and inviting,” and hopes that the venue will continue to be a great resource for community gatherings and church functions as it once was 30 years ago when it hosted conferences, police graduations, school plays, youth events and even pageants.
Following an 18-monthlong renovation project, the venue now showcases new audio visual equipment (sound and projection), new furnishings and a sparkling new lobby. The auditorium is also handicapped accessible, offers free parking and is a wonderful space for ceremonies, lectures, performances, screenings and more.
“I hope McVinney can help grow people in their faith, their generosity and their giftedness,” she said. “We encourage people to reach out and learn more about rental options. We have a vibrant auditorium with very reasonable rental prices.”
Visit www.mcvinneyauditorium.org for ticket information and rental opportunities.