Larry Bonoff, Former General Manager of the ‘Tent,’ Announces Two Major Projects To Chronicle the Rich 45-Year History of Rhode Island’s Premier Entertainment Venue.
Bonoff partners with the University of Rhode Island, the Providence Performing Arts Center, Michael Corrente, and Southern New Englanders to document and preserve the legacy of the Warwick Musical Theatre through an online museum and a documentary film.
PROVIDENCE , R.I. – OCTOBER 21, 2008: On September 4, 1999, the lights dimmed for the last time at the Warwick Musical Theatre after an impressive, and unprecedented multi-decade run. As the ‘Professionals of Summer Entertainment,’ the theatre provided theatre-goers in Rhode Island and Southern New England the rare opportunity to see the biggest stars and the biggest performances in show business.
The theatre may be gone, but its proud tradition lives on. To celebrate that legacy, Larry Bonoff today announced an exciting partnership with the University of Rhode Island which will house and catalog thousands of artifacts from Bonoff’s personal collection. The items represent 85 years of theatre history and span four generations on one side of his family (the Bonoffs) and three on the other (the Wassermans). All of these items, which document the history of the families’ involvement in theatre, will be available to scholars and enthusiasts alike. Scholars can access the processed archives for research purposes immediately through the Special Collections Unit of URI’s University Library. A web portal accessible by the public will be available in 2009, but a sneak preview of some of those items can be found at www.bonoff.net. In addition, the Bonoff Theatre Fund has been created through the URI Foundation’s Dean’s Excellence Fund to help provide scholarships for URI theatre students and financial support for university theatre productions.
“The University of Rhode Island is honored to accept Mr. Bonoff’s very generous contribution,” said URI President Robert Carothers, “The Bonoff and Wasserman family collections, which feature the Warwick Musical Theatre, are an important part of Rhode Island history and now that history can be preserved and studied for generations to come.”
In addition to the archives collection and in coordination with the 10th anniversary of the theatre’s closing next year, Bonoff also announced the production of a documentary film about the 45-year history of the Warwick Musical Theatre, the longest-running theatre-in-the-round ever owned and operated by the same family. The feature will be produced over the coming year and will premier at the Providence Performing Arts Center sometime in late 2009. That venue was selected because of its status as a leading center of arts excellence and because of the tireless efforts of President J.L. “Lynn” Singleton to preserve and celebrate the arts in Rhode Island . The legacy of WMT also lives on at PPAC through the work of Betsy Bonoff Menders, Larry’s sister and the former director of operations at the Tent, who currently serves as PPAC’s events manager.
This project will be spearheaded by Brian C. Jones, who served as Bonoff’s chief assistant for eight years and worked at the theatre for twelve seasons. He will lead a filmmaking team which will include some former theatre employees and will be advised by Rhode Island film stalwart Michael Corrente, who will serve as a creative consultant on the project.
The film will chronicle the theatre’s impact on the Rhode Island , New England , and the broader show business communities. It will also highlight the incredible story of the Bonoffs, a theatre family spanning four generations. Archival news footage will be intertwined with new interviews from the people who made the theatre so special – the talented performers who graced the stage, the dedicated employees who worked the aisles, and the loyal patrons who came summer after summer. In conjunction with the film, Jones announced that former theatre-goers and employees will be given the opportunity to come and recount their favorite WMT memories in person at a time and place to be announced in the future, or they can submit them electronically at www.wmtmovie.com. Many of those stories will become part of the final film.
“I am so excited that the incredible story of both the Warwick Musical Theatre and the Bonoff family will be immortalized on film,” said Bonoff, “This documentary will be a proud and lasting tribute to the vision first held by my grandfather 85 years ago. I hope it will also evoke some found memories of how things used to be.”
The feature will be produced by a partnership entity formed by Bonoff and Jones earlier this year. All profits from the film’s theatrical run will go to the Bonoff Foundation and charitable organizations which fight diabetes and cancer, diseases that took the lives of Bonoff’s parents, Buster and Barbara. In coordination with both of these projects, Bonoff also announced that a 2009 Warwick Musical Theatre commemorative calendar is now available with a $10-minimum donation to the Bonoff Foundation at select locations throughout Rhode Island. The calendar is packed with photos direct from the Bonoff family archives. For more information about the where and how to get the calendar, please visit www.bonoff.net.