The Dig In Dining group, composed of Ed Brady, Justin Erickson and Jeff Quinlan, has roots deep in Rhode Island, and even deeper in Cranston.
When the brand recently bought the closed, and somewhat worse for wear, Park Theatre at the intersections of Park, Pontiac and Rolfe Street, they were focused on bringing it back to its historic glory days and beyond.
Brady, overseeing most of the day to day operations, remembers when the Park was a destination — not just a landmark for directions.
“The Park is a Cranston and Rhode Island institution. Almost everyone in Cranston has a story about it. We wanted to keep those memories alive, and now we can make new memories for new generations,” said Brady.
Learning while working, they are slowly bringing the theatre back to life with several live events that are sure to please everyone’s tastes.
The fall lineup of shows vary from a Michael Jackson Tribute artist impersonator, to Broadway Divas, Easton Coburn country singer, their first sellout show of Cranston native, Matt Fraser the psychic medium and the very popular and classic performance of the Nutcracker by the Heritage Ballet in December.
“We are hosting our own performance of ‘A Christmas Carol’ this year. Auditions are being held on Sunday, Aug. 28 and Monday, Aug. 29 @ 6:30 p.m. Doors open at 6 p.m.,” said Becca Donald, Managing Artistic Director at the Historic Park Theatre & Event Center.
It is the organization’s vision to bring a kid’s movie series, nostalgic movies, series, customized dinner and movie experiences to the theatre venue along with the live performances.
“We are bringing life back into the building. We repurposed the space. Not only just making the space usable again, we are putting our own twist on it. Many different aspects, venues and ideas to come to fruition,” Brady said.
Ever since Covid, and even to an extent prior, the entire arts community space has struggled.
“To be able to get any arts back on stage for the community to enjoy, having this right in their own backyard is special,” said Alaina Bart, Director of Operations and Events at The Historic Park Theatre and Event Center.
Brady stated how they are an entity unto themselves.
“There’s no competition for us. No other venue has what we offer. Every theatre is a theatre. We have extended beverages, fresh concessions, fresh flavored foods. People can spend the evening, have dinner, a show and end with our martini bar. We offer spaces from a mini event center to full corporate events to huge flex space. To top it off, we have free parking. No leaving the building to go on to the next part of the evening,” he said.
The flip side of being so new and so young, they are entering the arts space with the underdog status.
“None of the equipment was working, we had to bring sound back to life, bring seats back into shape, do a lot of painting. We are expecting to have the upstairs renovation done by Halloween. The team has no dust. We keep moving forward,” said Bart.
The building itself is almost 50,000 square feet from head to toe.
“We are elevating the experience, taking every opportunity to raise the bar from the littlest things to the big ones. From fancier toilet paper, to baby changing stations it’s the little things matter, it’s what people remember,” said Donald.
The organization just finished hosting the Rhode Island Youth Theatre.
“We had them for two, two week programs, and each performance was phenomenal,” said Bart.
Some of the other events they host are line dancing every Thursday, open mic on Wednesdays for spoken word, music, comedy and a local fundraising guest bartender event is being planned.
And, the Comedy Park inside is the new destination for standup comedy in Rhode Island.
“We want to be an incubator for artists, of all kinds and experience and talents” Brady said.
With community being such an important component to their ideology, they will be doing a For the Kids toy drive this year. This will be transferring from the Thirsty Beaver due to the Park being able to offer more space.
They are very proud of the impact they have on the environment and the community when it comes to their kitchen.
“Our chef is very eco conscious. We repurpose grease, donate food to the homeless and less fortunate through an app provided by the state, called ‘Too Good to GO,’ where they will get a grab bag of food that was either leftover, or simply we made too much. The state reimburses us for food costs,” said Donald.
Lots of their menu is sourced locally as well. The coffee comes from Mills Coffee Roasters in Providence, Twelve Guns brewing out of Bristol, RI and, Isco vodka, the first and only distilled alcohol in the state since Prohibition also from Providence.
“We are working in collaboration with all three high schools on different projects and partnerships. We are actually hosting the Career Tech graduation in June. There are lots of high school reunions (including my own) on the calendar,” Brady said.
When asked what was on their wish list, they were very honest and open.
“We want to get the word out to people more. We want people to come see what’s new. We have poured so much blood, sweat and tears into bringing this to a living breathing space. The sacrifices are huge. We want those seats filled, we want people talking about how great it is to be back. We want families to come and see the ballet, the musicians. We are trying to change the impression of what the theater is,” all three concurred.
Another plan they have for the future is to create a nonprofit, The Park Players, and through that they are asking the local community for help to create a historical museum. They would like to see a hallway of donated memorabilia.
All three agreed that it is about the community feel for the building. They are excited to see what is going to happen.
For more information about the newly renovated Historic Park Theater and Event Space, check out their website at www.theparkri.com.