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Hazlett reopens as unique arts venue

By Alice T. Carter
Thursday, September 14, 2006

A weekend of events will celebrate the return of The Hazlett Theater on the North Side.
Now called The New Hazlett Theater, the city-owned property reopens this weekend following a three-year pause in operations and a $2 million renovation.

A three-day weekend of events — some for family audiences and some for adults and ranging in price from free to $25 — will re-acquaint area audiences with the new space and upcoming events.

The revamped, renewed and remodeled facility in Allegheny Square will offer a convertible black-box auditorium designed to provide performance space to the area’s small and mid-size arts groups such as Prime Stage Theatre, Attack Theatre and the Pittsburgh International Children’s Festival. Organizations including The August Wilson Center, The Andy Warhol Museum, the Manchester Craftsmen’s Guild & Children’s Museum Jazz and the National Trust for Historic Preservation have scheduled events for the space.

“Our core mission is to give a professional, reliable home to Pittsburgh’s small and mid-size arts groups,” says Sara Radelet, executive director of The New Hazlett Theater. “An added mission is to provide programming for Pittsburgh arts audiences that they wouldn’t normally see.”
Already, Radelet has logged commitments for 100 performance days in the coming year.

“We hope to nurture and incubate groups so they feel they can push themselves a bit,” Radelet says. Providing small and mid-size arts groups with a dependable, year-round, well-equipped and affordable performance space will allow artists and administrators to concentrate on creating art rather than searching for places to perform it, Radelet says. “Now, they can concentrate on vision, focus and direction.”

Rental fees are set in a two-tier structure that Radelet says approximates those at similar venues in the area while providing a price break for nonprofit groups. Commercial clients can rent The New Hazlett Theater for $1,700 per day or $6,500 per week. Dependiing on audience configuration, nonprofit groups will pay between $650 and $800 per day or $1,600 to $1,950 per week.

A North Side landmark since its opening in 1890 as the Music Hall attached to The Carnegie Free Library of what was then Allegheny City, The Hazlett Theater served from 1974 to 1999 as the first home of the Pittsburgh Public Theater.

The property will be managed through a collaboration of the Children’s Museum of Pittsburgh, The Andy Warhol Museum, the Northside Leadership Conference, Prime Stage Theatre, Attack Theatre and the City of Pittsburgh.

In its latest incarnation, the theater has been designed as a convertible performance space that can accommodate audience capacities of 250 to 500 in a variety of configurations.

Many of the facility’s improvements will go unseen by audiences.

Dressing rooms have been expanded, updated and equipped with new showers, sinks, toilets and makeup counters. Dressing facilities also have been designed for use by performers with physical challenges. Washers and dryers will be available near dressing rooms.

Backstage loading docks allow scenery and equipment to move seamlessly from truck to stage. Between $15,000 and $20,000 has been invested in new lighting and sound equipment.

But audiences will see a new lobby area that combines the former Hazlett entrance lobby and inner lobby bar area into one open and inviting space. Patron bathroom facilities have been expanded and improved. A new, highly visible box office area welcomes visitors, as will the lobby’s banquette seating and a new snack bar.

Radelet envisions the lobby as a space that also will encourage audiences to linger after the show. She hopes to offer informal post-show and late-night talks and performances to further that ambition.

She also hopes the more informal and flexible performance space will encourage and inspire artists with visions and ideas that might not fit into more formal, Downtown venues.

“We want a range (of performances) from kids’ theater and music programs to more cutting-edge performances that other organizations wouldn’t risk,” Radelet says.

Alice T. Carter can be reached at or (412) 320-7808.

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