The Burbage Theatre Company Moves Into Aurora

Written by

JENN SALCIDO for Providence Monthly

Downtown is busier (and arguably prettier) than ever these days; new and delicious-looking restaurants are cropping up all within a few blocks, spilling onto my Instagram feed. But for those of us keen on performance, there’s still one big used-to-be left on Westminster that seems ripe for a meaningful kind of reinvention.

What is now Aurora, of course, used to be Roots and before that Black Rep. The nightclub occupies an important corner of real estate, artistically speaking: it’s just a stone’s throw from the Pell Chafee Performance Center, AS220 and the former Perishable Theatre space it now runs, Trinity Repertory Company and PPAC. Behind the front room, one walks into a spacious area perfectly suited to performance. In the time since it opened, billing itself as a “mixed-use creative venue,” Aurora has hosted events such as poetry readings, panel discussions, live music yoga, bands, films, benefits… I could go on.

It’s been a while since the space has had a resident theater presence, and this month, theBurbage Theatre Company is all too happy to call Aurora its new home. On June 19 from 7 to 11pm, the group will celebrate the announcement of its residency at Aurora with a kick-off event. Ticketholders will be treated to appetizers, a drink ticket, a cash bar, a short performance and the chance to talk to the company and learn about its mission and its plans for the future.

One of the many small groups growing out of the rich garden of local theater in Rhode Island, Burbage got its start in the spring of 2010, when founding Artistic Director Jeff Church and three other Rhode Island College classmates produced their first show in Fall River. Since then, they’ve produced 13 shows and grown to a group of about 40 collaborators, roaming around to different venues to make their work.

Jeff says that the group owes finally finding a permanent home to a bit of serendipity – the company’s Executive Director, Allison Cruz, is an employee at Aurora. The management at Aurora was looking for a theater group to host; they’d heard about Burbage, knew they were a young team making innovative work, and the rest is not quite history, more like future.

“Aurora has this incredible commitment to building a very broad artistic community of people who want to use whatever medium they choose to open a discourse on something. They are very committed to that. We love that, and we want to be a part of that,” he said. “Until now, we’ve done everything we can to produce plays – we’ve rehearsed in garages and living rooms until we can get things up in front of an audience. But this is an opportunity for us to commune with an audience in a new setting.”

Building a vision, an audience base and then a physical theater is hard work, of course. But Jeff says that many of the founding members had Gamm Artistic Director Tony Estrella in class at RIC, and listened with rapt attention as he described the backbreaking process of building what is now one of the preeminent theaters in the state from scratch. The Gamm just celebrated its 30th season, so I’d say that Tony knows a thing or two about this whole resident company thing.

Burbage has recently announced its summer season at the venue: they plan to put up two plays in the late summer – July through early September – running them in repertory, meaning at the same time and alternating on certain nights. Jeff says the two plays are Red Light Winter by Adam Rapp, a Pulitzer-prize nominee for drama in 2007, and Love Song by John Kolvenbach. This will be the Rhode Island premiere for both plays.

Jeff says that by mid-June, the group will continue to establish itself as a player in the downtown scene. “Right now, we have a plan for five plays. Our goal is to have one of these five plays be dedicated to our New Works Program, which is under development. One play will be a classic, which we’ve already chosen. And then three contemporary plays that would be relevant for our audience,” he says.

Tickets to the kickoff event, which Jeff says will be a “great microcosm of what we’ll be offering,” are on sale now. “It’ll be a fun shindig,” he beams.

Burbage Theatre Company
276 Westminster Street

Salcido, Jenn. “The Burbage Theatre Company Moves Into Aurora.” Providence Monthly. 26 May. 2015 web <,15343?>