By John Hirtle
Atlantic News, Thursday, February 8, 2001
DOWN IT GOES! -- The historic Hampton Playhouse fell victim to the march of progress as it was methodically demolished beginning last Thursday. The Playhouse box office, the theatre lobby, the dressing rooms, and the entire backstage area were torn down first. The barn itself will be taken down last, so the demolition crew could save the structure's coveted crossbeams. [Atlantic News Photo by Liz Premo]
Without much fanfare, the old Hampton Playhouse started to come down last week. It was the end of an era.
I imagine it is time to begin planning a new era.
While it is true that ACT ONE Productions will continue the Playhouse tradition at Winnacunnet Community Auditorium this summer, the auditorium's location has a number of drawbacks. Among them is a lack of parking, being in a location which is not exactly on the beaten path, and of course the fact that the season is severly restricted by the end and start of the school year. Despite these drawbacks, they came through, and had a very good year. Hopefully they will have another good year this summer, and the tradition will remain alive.
It seems to me as if there are enough people around who want to see the tradition remain alive. There are just not enough around to keep up the drive to keep the ideal of the Hampton Playhouse alive indefinitely.
As I said, time to begin planning a new era.
Hampton continues to grow, and with it, the wants and needs of its citizens has grown. On the wish list of course is a Senior Citizen's center, and I suspect that the Recreation Department has some outstanding ideas for expanding indoor activities, if there was more space available.
Perhaps it is time for Hampton to consider building a civic center. A place where Seniors could go meet and play games rather than crowding into the Dorothy Little Room at the Lane Memorial Library. A place where a new theatre tradition could begin, not only for the summer months but all year long. A place for Hampton Recreation to expand on some of its programs. In short, a meeting place for everyone.
Looking for a model? Go over to North Hampton's Centennial Hall during one of its open houses and ask for a tour. With four impressive floors, they have a small theater and dance hall on the second floor, craft rooms in the basement, and dancers on the first floor. In some ways they are fortunate -- they had the building standing there to restore. All they lack is the funding to do it with. That's not stopping them though, and bit by bit, they are bringing the venerable old structure into the North Hampton of the 21st century.
As far as I know, Hampton does not have a structure equivalent to Centennial Hall to use or convert. I may be wrong. But this leaves the door open for a new structure to be built which will address the needs of all the various individual groups who could come together and champion such a civic center. Alone, efforts to build a senior center and to save the playhouse have failed, but only by the slimmest of margins. Together, one would hope that they would succeed, and work towards building a civic center, and a better Hampton.
After all, if funds could be collected to raise the bandstand in Marelli Square, what is there to keep funds from being raised for a civic center which will benefit everyone in Hampton?