Humans of SSB: The New Hazlett Theater

8/23/2019

Pittsburgh is a town full of rich history that can still be seen through the various revitalized buildings and businesses that remain prominent throughout the city. The New Hazlett Theater in the Northside is a prime example of this through its successful reinvention over the years. From its original assembly in 1889, The New Hazlett Theater, originally known as the Carnegie Music Hall, has remained a historic landmark and asset to the local performing arts community. Although it has undergone some close calls, including the threat of demolition in 1967 and years of sitting empty in the early 2000’s, the structure and its historic, Richardson-Romanesque style and grandeur still remain intact through the help of funders, dedicated staff, and a supportive performing arts community.Ms. René  Conrad, the Executive Director of The New Hazlett TheaterMs. René  Conrad, the Executive Director of The New Hazlett Theater

The New Hazlett Theater, dubbed as “an incubator of the arts in Pittsburgh”, is a unique space that showcases anything from dance and theater performances, to weddings and corporate events. Its thrust configuration provides an intimate experience that cannot be found in many of the traditional performance spaces in the city. It allows you to feel as though you are part of the performance, putting you up close and personal with the artists. René Conrad, the Executive Director, would describe the theater as a “a creative and inclusive community”, one that showcases a wide range of talented performers from a variety of disciplines.

While walking through the building, the historic look and essence of the theater could not be ignored, and neither could Ms. Conrad’s passion for the performing arts community and her work at The New Hazlett Theater. While working full-time in the corporate world, Ms. Conrad stayed active in the arts by volunteering in a variety of non-profit theater spaces during her career. Eventually, through some twists and turns, Ms. Conrad traded in her for-profit management work for the long hours of non-profit planning, budgeting and fundraising. Even with all the pressures of working in the non-profit world, Ms. Conrad believes her work with the theater is “the best job in Pittsburgh”, allowing her to work with such creative and inspiring people.

One of her proudest moments at the theater involved the creation of their Community Supported Art CSA program. This program, based on the Community Supported Agriculture model, provides consumers a way to support local artists through a subscription series. Each season, the theater chooses performing artists through a competitive application process, and those chosen receive a stipend and two performance nights with technicians, equipment, and staff. Those patrons that purchased a “share” receive a ticket to each performance by the upcoming artists. The program has only continued to expand, announcing the lineup for its seventh season on August 27th.

With the signing of a 29-year lease in April of 2018, there are tons of future plans for the theater. Some of those plans, according to Ms. Conrad, include the addition of some new staff positions, creating a vision plan through collaboration with Carnegie Mellon University grad students, and finding a “sister city” that would develop a CSA program and allow for expanded performance opportunities for artists. Many of these plans are still in the brainstorming phase, but the continued mission to nurture the arts and connect with the community remains ingrained in the forefront of the non-profit’s current strategy and ongoing development.

Through the continued efforts of community leaders and the supportive theater community, the theater has continued to thrive since its reopening in 2006. They remain capable of supporting their mission of cultivating the arts through charitable giving, ticket sales, and grants. Through those means of monetary support, the theater can provide new and upcoming artists with affordable rent and exciting new opportunities for development in the arts. With the building occupied 75% of the year by various events and performances, continued support of The New Hazlett Theater is appreciated and well-deserved.

For more information on how to donate or attend performances to support their cause, please visit their website: https://newhazletttheater.org/



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