Robert Dionne, The man behind the Majestic
By Robert Greene
Dionne’s had the theater bug since his days at West High School. He
studied flute and conducting at University of Maine at Orono. Returning
to the stage as a pit musician, he couldn’t resist the call of the
spotlight. He climbed out of the pit, onto the stage — and eventually
ended up in an office. Now he’s executive director at the Majestic
Theatre in Manchester.
When did you get wrapped up in the Majestic Theatre?
actually started at the Majestic. That was back in ’90 — our first
season was in 1991. We started off with just, you know, one-show,
one-night type thing. A bunch of us from high school getting together
... one summer. And it, just over the years, grew..... And now we have a
full season and a repertory company....We’re looking ahead to a couple
years from now, after some planning and capital campaigning, to moving
the Majestic into a permanent space.
Yes. The space we are in now was always intended to be temporary. So we
are looking into now ... creating a venue of our own. We’d also use the
space for rentals to other groups and sort of a community center for
anyone interested in music and theater. We have an open lease, and we’re
not being pushed out of there. But also we both [the theater and the
landlord] ... realize that it’s a temporary space but we’ve been there
for 10 years. ... We’re definitely going to stay in Manchester, but once
we raise a certain amount of capital we’ll start to seriously look at
where we want to go.
What form is the fundraising going to take?
first year is going to be shows. We’re going to start off doing what we
do best. We’re meeting as a board in the next couple of months to decide
how we want to conduct a capital campaign. ... Majestic is a nonprofit.
... I look it as a business. It’s a nonprofit but you’ve got to make the
ends meet and be responsible financially.
so much of the money raised in the shows goes to pay for the shows. It
seems like it would take a really long time to fill the coffers.
There’s not a lot of extra in there. That’s why the capital fund needs
to be its own thing. We’ll need to put some money aside from each show.
We’re not talking about skimping and reducing the quality of our shows,
of course. We’ll need to run special events.
What’s it cost to put on a show? Do the royalties kill you?
costs us about $8,000 to put on a show. The fee for the royalties alone
is $3,000 to $5,000. It’s funny, but the royalties for musicals, whether
it’s a known or an unknown, are about the same. ... you’re spending the
same money on an unknown as you would on My Fair Lady, but you know you
are not going to break even on the unknown. Or you may break even, but
that’s about it. .... And another funny thing is that the royalties for
plays are much less than the royalties for musicals. It’s only a couple
hundred dollars. So you are paying less, but more people come to
There are a lot of theaters and companies in this area but I keep seeing
advertisements for the same shows. Everyone does Grease, everyone does
Annie .... Am I wrong?
thing is with, say, the classic musicals is that you are almost
guaranteed a full house. As much as I’d love to put in all unknowns — we
[would] end up losing money at the end of the year. People around here
are more apt to go to the well-knowns. And I think, while the market for
the unknowns is growing and people are more willing to do that, you
still have to keep the basic well-known plays in place to keep the bills
this area support so much theater?
am a huge supporter of every company out there and I think it is great
that there are so many. But I also think it hinders us a little bit,
because we are all vying for the same actors, the same patrons and all
that. ... But like I said, I think a lot of people are doing a good job
reinventing the wheel a little bit. Two of the companies at Merrimack
[Repertory Theatre in Lowell, Mass.] just merged into one. I think ...
people are going to find out that they can be much stronger as a co-op
than standing alone.
What do you have in the hopper for the 2006 season?
thing we’re doing, it’s a great show and we’re the first theater in New
England to get it, is Hot Tuna. We’ll show that in May. We have Forever
Plaid, which is a murder mystery. In the summer we will have West Side
Story, with a full orchestra. I’m going to be conducting that one. We
also have Agatha Christie’s Mousetrap. And then in the fall we have
Light Up the Sky, Fiddler on the Roof, as well as a musical version of