Andrew Laplante, of Commercial Painting of Pawtucket, is busy helping to renovate the former Lynch Gymnasium, which will become St. Raphael Academy's new state-of-the-art theater by Thanksgiving. (Photo/Ernest A. Brown)
PAWTUCKET â€” By Thanksgiving, young thespians, singers and musicians at St. Raphael Academy should have a new stage on which to ply their arts. The private, coeducational Catholic high school has begun a major renovation of its former gymnasium to create a state-of-the-art theater.
A blessing and groundbreaking ceremony to kick off the renovation project will be held on Monday, Sept. 30, at 10:30 a.m. The theater will occupy a building that was formerly known as the Lynch Gymnasium at the corner of Maynard and Walcott streets.
St. Raphael Academy Principal Daniel Richard said the venue will feature a large stage equipped with modern features for lighting and sound technology, and seats for 304 patrons. It will also have six handicapped seats, as well as being handicapped accessible.
Richard said the renovation project costs approximately $1.5 million. He added that the school expects to complete the renovation project with existing funds and is not incurring any debt.
The principal said he expects the work to be completed by late November and in time for Thanksgiving.
â€śThat is our hope and our plan,â€ť Richard said. â€śWeâ€™re all very excited.â€ť
Denny Majewski, director of advancement for St. Raphael Academy, echoed Richardâ€™s sentiments about being excited. â€śItâ€™s going to be a beautiful theater. Weâ€™re always trying to expand our arts programs, and this theater will be used not only by drama classes, but for choruses and music arts as well.â€ť
Majewski added, â€śItâ€™s going to be a boon for the community, too. When itâ€™s completed, we will be happy to rent it out to outside arts groups. Weâ€™ll also be able to invite different acting troupes and other performers in.â€ť
Established in 1924 by the De La Salle Christian Brothers, St. Raphael Academy, serving grades 9 to 12, has a campus on two sides of Walcott Street in the Quality Hill neighborhood of Pawtucket. The last major project was in 2007, when the school constructed a new gymnasium and wellness center on its grounds to replace its then 80-year-old gymnasium. The basketball court was dedicated as a memorial to former Pawtucket Mayor Dennis M. Lynch in the new gymnasium.