Hole In The Wall Theater
History of HITW in New Britain
WRITTEN BY: William Shakespeare
DIRECTED BY: Scott Kegler
PRODUCED BY: Tony Palmieri
Tickets $20.00 Adult and $15.00 Students and Seniors
For general info, call 860-223-9665
Ceilidh VII: Ceilidh Go Bragh
featuring the Rude Mechanicals
March 15th at 2:00 PM and 7:00PM
Want to see what we've done in the past? For a complete list of previously produced shows Click here!
All meetings will take place at:
116 Main St. New Britain, CT
(unless otherwise noted)
All are welcome!
From the moment you walk in the door to one of our Wednesday meetings, you're a full-fledged voting member... no dues required!
The Hole in the Wall is continuing its food drive for The Friendship Service Center of New Britain. More Information
Another way to support us is by purchasing our very fashionable merchandise. Be the talk of the town with your very own HITW T-Shirt! Click Here!
Hole in the Wall presented the first production in its existence, The Time of Your Life, in 1972 at the bookstore of founding member Paco Robida. Located at 12 Oak Street in New Britain, the discount paperback bookstore was called, aptly enough, the "Hole in the Wall Bookstore," thus giving rise to the theater's unusual name. Hole in the Wall was run from its inception on a "donation" basis, with admission considered free but audience members asked to make a donation of whatever amount they chose to help keep the theater going. For the first three years of its existence, Hole in the Wall did not request a donation as the audience entered the theater. Instead, a time-honored tradition called "the pitch" was utilized, in which a member of the show asked audience members to make a donation of any size on their way out, after the show was over.
It was only after the theater relocated to Arch Street in late 1975 that donations at the door were requested of incoming audience members; the original donation requested was $4.00. In the years since, it has slowly risen to our current requested $20.00 donation for a straight play and $25.00 for a musical, although the theater's policy of accepting any size donation, or none, still survives.
Incorporated with the state of Connecticut in 1974 as a nonstock, nonprofit corporation, Hole in the Wall was created to "operate a neighborhood theater and to engage in any lawful act or activity for which corporations may be formed under the Nonstock Corporation Act of the State of Connecticut as the same may from time to time be amended." The certificate of incorporation stated that "there shall be one class of members. Any person may become a member provided he meet[s] the qualifications set forth in the Bylaws as the same may be from time to time amended. All members shall be voting members and shall have such other rights as are provided by law."
Unique in its creation as well as the manner in which it was run, HITW was the only theater in the state to be run solely by its members through its biweekly gatherings, termed "General Meeting." General Meeting was responsible for choosing the plays presented, maintaining the physical plant, and creating, revising and upholding the philosophy by which HITW was run. Anyone who walked in to a General Meeting became a fully voting member at their first meeting. From time to time, the theater would consider its donation policy and whether to keep it, go to a set ticket price, or to increase the suggested donation, but it has always functioned as a donation theater.
After only two performances at the Oak Street location, The Time of Your Life and Spoon River Anthology, HITW moved on to 284 Allen Street and opened with The Hostage by Brendan Behan. For almost three years, September 1972 through September 1975, mounted and ran six productions per calendar year, an unusual feat for a local or community theater.
In November of 1976, HITW again moved, this time to 50 Arch Street. Opening with William Shakespeare's Othello, the theater remained at Arch Street until June 1978, another three year residency.
The theater's fourth location, 121 Smalley Street, was HITW's largest physical space, with a seating capacity of 125 and enough room for dressing room facilities, a scene shop, storage and a lobby/concession area. The rent was reasonable, but the roof leaked, so in the winter and spring of 1981-1982, theater members undertook the daunting task of repairing the roof leaks. They were so successful at their repair work that the landlord promptly doubled or tripled the rent, causing theater members to pack up their goods and move again, this time in April of 1982, to 36 North Street, their fifth home in their ten-year history.
North Street was considerably smaller than Smalley Street, with a very small makeup area, no scene shop, and only two restrooms which were shared by cast, crew and audience alike (a definite step up from Oak Street, which had one restroom for audience, cast and crew alike!). Backstage, a slop sink doubled as a dressing room sink, and a dank cinder block green room was affectionately nicknamed the "Argentine Prison" due to its lack of windows, air circulation, natural light, and the constant oozing dampness which emanated from the cement walls and, yet again, leaking roof.
HITW remained at North Street from June 1982 through June 1988, its longest period of residency in its history, and produced 36 productions in the castle-like theater. Scenery was built right on the stage due to lack of space, and cast "potty calls" were held just before curtain so the actors could see to their comfort before going onstage. While the theater's productions and reputation grew in stature, the neighborhood proceeded to go downhill. Vandalism to theater and member property and audience vehicles as well as the risk of assault and physical injury increased steadily, despite the New Britain police department's making nightly circuits past the theater. After a founding member was mugged in the front seat of his own car while working security, the general membership decided it had had enough and voted to relocate yet again. In order to facilitate the orderly location of and moving to a new building, for the first time the theater created a Board of Directors to oversee financial and business matters on behalf of General Meeting, leaving GM to deal with artistic and philosophical decisions. Bylaws were written and revised to incorporate a Board of Directors that encompassed anywhere from three to fifteen members, elected from GM for a maximum of three one-year terms. Throughout the late summer of 1987 into the following summer, the Board and GM sought and located its next home, executing a lease for a former machine shop located at 10 Harvard Street.
HITW's next location, 10 Harvard Street, was its home from August of 1988 until July of 2003. The first production of that season, Happy Birthday, Wanda June by Kurt Vonnegut, opened in September 1988, and it has been running steadily since that time, with six productions per season being built and performed from September through August, with an occasional showcase thrown in for good measure. Within the theater's thirty-five year period, founding members Ray Shinn and Ted Guhl have been instrumental in the success of the theater and its longevity. Ray has directed thirty shows at Hole in the Wall, from the original production of The Time of Your Life in 1972 through to the most recent and third production of that show in September 1992, as well as having performed in numerous other productions. In addition, Ted Guhl has directed twenty shows and has been involved in numerous other productions in some capacity or other, whether as producer, designer of costumers, sets or lights, or as an actor In over thirty-five years of operation, only four shows have ever been canceled, all due to poor weather conditions. In that time, leading actors have taken ill and been replaced with brave fellow members carrying a script. Hole in the Wall members have many reasons to be proud. After searching for a new performance space for several years, Hole in the Wall moved to it's current home at 116 Main Street and opened in March of 2006 with a production of William Shakespeare's "Merchant of Venice" starring Ted Guhl as Shylock. The modern facility offers comfort for patrons and actors alike with state of the art heating and air conditioning and new seating. We can boast about the theater's longevity, the creative capacity of the membership, the long-term status of many of the members, the increasingly more complicated production values of current shows and our ability to live up to the challenge of meeting those values and surpassing them. Hole in the Wall is truly a theater where one can venture and take on creative risks and feel safe and supported in that venture.