The Derry Opera House received welcome news last week, a $20,000 state grant to help fund painting and plaster repair at the historic Adams Memorial Building downtown.
But it’s a drop in the paint bucket when considering the estimated $150,000 in renovations needed to the roof and balcony area, closed late last year over safety concerns. That put about 100 of the 375 seats off limits for the time being.
Derry has a real downtown gem in the Adams Building, a gift to the town from local lumber baron Benjamin Adams 110 years ago.
The building has served many roles, from courthouse to town offices, from library to school. But it’s always been home to the Opera House.
Not many New Hampshire towns can lay claim to a downtown opera house in operation for more than a century. It ought to be enough to draw people to Broadway on a regular basis and the town ought to tout its presence at every opportunity.
Somehow, it doesn’t.
Last week, Londonderry High School drama students had the place shaking. Clad in leather and pink satin bomber jackets, the students rocked the rafters with “You’re the One I want” and “We Go Together.”
Londonderry students performing in Derry? Yes, because their high school lacks an auditorium.
The Opera House routinely hosts community and children’s theater performances, dance recitals, concerts, pageants, even presidential candidates.
But the town and the Derry Arts Council need to do a better job promoting what’s happening up on the second floor and less time bemoaning what downtown doesn’t have, namely parking.
People are willing to walk and there are plenty of municipal parking spaces available most evenings. It could be as simple as patrons being unaware of nearby spaces. Simple solution: Get some high school kids to put in a few hours of community service and direct audience members to what’s available.