Artists’ Collaborative Theatre Of New England (ACT ONE) is a New Hampshire tax-exempt, not-for-profit arts and education organization established in 1997 to present, produce, and promote the fine arts, with special emphasis on professional theatre production.
1998-1999 ACT ONE’s first theatrical production and outreach programming explored New Hampshire’s rich cultural history. With a generous grant from the New Hampshire Humanities Council, ACT ONE developed “A Visit to the Isles of Shoals,” a 4-part series of lecture series that toured the libraries in Peterborough, Rochester, Littleton, Claremont, Hopkinton, Manchester, Gilford, and Portsmouth.
With funding provided by the Isles of Shoals Steamship Company, the New Hampshire Humanities Council, Rosamond Thaxter Foundation, and WMUR-TV, ACT ONE developed the professional theatre production, Of Pirates & Poets – A Visit to the Isles of Shoals with Celia Thaxter. This one-woman multi-media presentation captured the fascinating history of the rocky archipelago that lies just off our coast and celebrated the life and works of poet, folklorist, and New Hampshire native, Celia Thaxter.
In May 1999, Of Pirates & Poets toured nine theatres and opera houses across New Hampshire, including Keene’s Colonial Theatre, the Claremont Opera House, the Lebanon Opera House, Gilford’s Performing Arts Center, the Exeter Town Hall, the Rochester Opera House, Concord’s City Auditorium, Manchester’s Palace Theatre, and The Music Hall in Portsmouth. The play received high critical acclaim and enjoyed a return engagement to the Audi, the Palace Theatre, and The Music Hall in September 1999.
2000-2004 When a real estate developer purchased the Hampton Playhouse barn theatre and adjoining property, the result was the closure of that theatre in late 1999. A group of residents of Hampton, NH approached ACT ONE about keeping alive the fifty year-tradition of professional summer theatre in their community.
With generous support from Greater Piscataqua Charitable Foundation, Lily Software, and Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield of New Hampshire, ACT ONE presented an eight-week season of professional comedy, musicals, and concerts at the Performing Arts Center at Winnacunnet High School In July and August of 2000.The first year of this “rescue mission” was a success, drawing over 6,000 enthusiastic theatre patrons. Thus was born ACT ONE’s Hampton Summer Theatre.
ACT ONE’s Hampton Summer Theatre continued for four additional summers, presenting professional comedy and musical theatre, and Concert Series that featured such well-known artists as Arlo Guthrie, Ed Gerhard, Tim Sample, and the Shaw Brothers. Expanded arts programming included children’s theatre workshops and performances.
During these formative years, ACT ONE’s Hampton Summer Theatre was awarded grants from the Greater Piscataqua Charitable Foundation, the NH State Council on the Arts, the Fuller Foundation, the NH Charitable Foundation, the Partnership for Effective Nonprofits, and the Getz Foundation. In addition to this invaluable support, membership in ACT ONE’s Circle of Friends grew as loyal and enthusiastic theatre patrons stepped forward with tax deductible donations.
In August 2004, the Hampton School Board informed ACT ONE that the Performing Arts Center would have to be closed the following summer for construction and asbestos removal but that ACT ONE was invited to return in 2006. Once it was clear that no interim venue could be secured in the Hampton area, ACT ONE’s Board of Directors was forced to conclude that “going dark” for a season would result in substantial loss of momentum for this fledgling enterprise. Thus Hampton Summer Theatre closed at the end of the 2004 season. ACT ONE began searching for a new performance venue.
2006 Pontine Theatre, now established in the newly air-conditioned West End Studio Theatre in Portsmouth, invited ACT ONE to take part in an August performance series of historical theatre. Of Pirates & Poets was adapted into a 75-minute format for the August series. At the conclusion of the performance series, Pontine’s co-artistic directors offered ACT ONE the opportunity to lease WEST for the following August.
2007-2016 Thus began ACT ONE’s annual Festivals at the West End Studio Theatre. This year marks the ninth season that ACT ONE has presented professional theatre, concerts, and storytelling in the wonderfully intimate 50-seat black-box theatre space at WEST.
ACT ONE’s Festival began as a 3-week season but has grown considerably over the years, now running from August through October. One of the hallmarks of ACT ONE’s Festival is the presentation of original theatre pieces, often premieres, by remarkable solo artists such as Susan Poulin, Pat Spalding, James Haller, Leslie Pasternack, Roland Goodbody, Liz Korabek-Emerson, and David Kaye. ACT ONE is also committed to giving full productions to new works by regional playwrights and has mounted productions of plays by Jack Neary, David Mariello, and Stephen Faria.