History: Foundation Era (1983-1984)

AVON CINEMA, Providence, RI: Apr 1983 – May 1983
CABLE CAR CINEMA, Providence, RI: Sep 1983 – Dec 1983
FAIRLAWN CINEMA, Pawtucket, RI: Dec 1983 – Feb 1984
WARWICK MALL CINEMAS, Warwick, RI: Feb 1984 – Oct 1984 (Weekly Friday and Saturday Nights)
CASINO THEATER, Newport, RI : July 20-28 (Fri, Sat 4 shows)
UA THEATER, Groton, CT : March 12 (Roadshow)

This era was marked by 3 relatively brisk runs. Getting back to Providence, we changed our name from the “Newport RHPS Cast” to the “Rhode Island RHPS Cast”.

The Avon, located in the midst of Brown University and just down the road from the defunct Cinerama, was not going to let a cast in. A parting gift from the Cinerama management was telling the Avon that having a cast was trouble. The Avon could generate a big house without a cast. It was difficult, but we made our case that we were an asset. We were given one chance. One mistake and we were out. Tough, but for us it was opportunity.

We challenged ourselves to have a full cast both Fri and Sat nights. Previously, Fridays were seldom casted. Not enough people. Many of our Newport-based performers stayed with us. We then recruited previous Cinerama and Groton cast members who shared our vision. For the first time, we had a full cast on both Friday & Saturday nights. For years, that the Friday and Saturday night casts were different sets of people.

The Cable Car Cinema and Cafe was next. A more relaxed venue, we learned how to do the show in a tiny theater of couches with less space to perform than many living rooms. We were allowed to again run the weekly newsletter that the Avon would not allow, and that was to go on for another 9 years.

Finally, there was the Fairlawn. Local theater in a run down part of town. Seedy crowd. By any standards, not a “safe place”. Torn down soon after we departed. Best thing about this place was the owner. Very friendly man, George Mittsmenn.

After these 3 runs, we were becoming quite resilient by going from one venue to another with little commonality. These experiences taught us to use discomfort as learning experiences and see change as opportunity.

The Warwick Mall Cinemas (WMC) afforded us a longer run than the 3 previous cinemas combined, but we faced violence at these shows. It could be that this was the first time the Show had gone to the less artistically-progressive suburbs. Some of the audience came to cause a problem with the fish-net wearing cast. There were fights. There was theater destruction. There were cast walkouts on 2 nights. There were calls to police. Once, there was an ambulance for a severed artery in a customer’s arm. Hard for people today to imagine. Large audiences. Inept management.