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Colonial Theatre shuts its doors, for now

Theatergoers gathered near protesters Sunday for the final night at the Colonial Theatre.
Theatergoers gathered near protesters Sunday for the final night at the Colonial Theatre.Dina Rudick/Globe Staff

News that Emerson College plans to close the Colonial Theatre for as long as a year drew both protesters and last-minute ticket seekers to the final scheduled performance at the 115-year-old playhouse Sunday night.

Outside the Colonial, some ushers wore buttons, urging officials to "Save the Colonial." Students and others waited in line to get $25 specially priced tickets, known as rush admissions, to a 6:30 p.m. performance of "The Book of Mormon." And while some said they were unhappy about the impending closing of the theater and the building's uncertain future, others added they were simply sad they might not be able to make new memories there.

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"Getting student rush tickets and stuff like that . . . It's obviously really sad that this is the last time that I'll have the opportunity to do something like that," said Mara Wolkoff, a college student who is home on fall break.

"I go to school in Western Massachusetts and . . . I didn't know that this was the last show until I got home and we were trying to get tickets to it," she said.

Last month, Emerson College acknowledged that it had been considering repurposing the Colonial, which was purchased by the school in 2006. The school's three-year contract with Citi Performing Arts Center ended on Sunday, the school said in a statement, and officials earlier told the Globe that no final decision has been reached on the building's future, despite the existence of documents that detail plans to turn the building into a dining hall/performance space.

"The college recognizes that some members of our performing arts faculty have concerns about the future of the Colonial," the statement released Sunday said. "We will be engaging in discussions with the performing arts faculty about the proposed plan, which is one of several options.

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"We also welcome the thoughts and perspectives of others, including students, alumni, and community members," the statement said.

Jim Mootos, president of IATSE Local B4 usher's union, said he is not concerned about ushers losing their jobs.

"We will have other work, work in other theaters, but as far as [the future of the Colonial] is concerned, we haven't really been told anything," Mootos said.

On the street, some ushers, even those working at a different theater, could be seen wearing the "Save the Colonial" badges.

Colonial usher Louise Aulier met with colleagues after working the afternoon show.

"It was very mournful," Aulier said. "Just saying goodbye to each other."

Before the 6:30 show Sunday evening, Pamela Pierce, 55, of Dorchester, and Lisa Nold, 48, of Somerville, hoped to score someone else's unneeded tickets to the show.

"It's silly that Emerson, which is a theatrical college, is closing one of the most beautiful theaters in the city. It's silly. I don't understand it," Pierce said. "How does that bode with being a world-class city?"

"I think it's so incredibly short-sighted of Emerson," Nold said.

But a spokeswoman for Emerson emphasized Sunday that all options for the future of the theater include performances.

An online petition set up by the Emerson College Community had 4,131 supporters by Sunday evening, a number that rose by the hour on Sunday.

The petition implores the community to "speak up before the Colonial is relegated to dining hall or campus center," and was shared on a number of social media platforms.

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The news of the theater's repurposing reached Ian Cardoni, a 2012 graduate of the acting program at Emerson, in Los Angeles. He said that he was not too worried, because "Emerson does have a good track record honoring the theater spaces of the theater in general,"

"If you're going to repurpose the theater, I would say make sound stages, or make a black box," Cardoni offered. "I would also like to see the students presented the opportunity to perform there."

Cardoni recalled a production he was in called "Light Up the Sky," a 1948 comedy that is set in the Colonial Theatre — something that fostered a sense of pride.

"It's like, wow!" he recalled. "It's another reason why you would preserve our theater."


Alexandra Koktsidis can be reached at alexandra.koktsidis@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @akoktsidis. Aimee Ortiz can be reached at aimee.ortiz@globe.com. Follow her on Twitter @aimee_ortiz. Erica Moser can be reached at erica.moser@globe.com.