Thursday, May 23, 2024

Harvard says its theater on Arrow Street in Harvard Square – formerly known as Oberon – will have a new tenant in 2023. (Photo: Marc Levy)

An unnamed tenant has been chosen for 2 Arrow St., replacing the venue formerly known as Harvard University’s Oberon theater.

Oberon closed in late 2021 with Harvard’s plans to move its theater arts to Allston, including  the American Repertory Theater on Brattle Street. Graffito SP, which is leasing Oberon for Harvard, had aimed to secure a tenant last spring, but there have been no updates for months.

Harvard spokesperson Brigid O’ Rourke confirmed Tuesday that a tenant has been chosen for the space in Cambridge.

“Harvard is in the early stages of forming a partnership with an exciting tenant that will advance vitality of the arts in the square, with Zero Arrow St. continuing its legacy as a home for creative expression. We look forward to sharing more details in the new year,” O’Rourke wrote in an email to Cambridge Day.

No further information was available about the tenant, or the months spent searching for one.

The venue will not go to the music presenter Once, a transition some community members had hoped to see. Proprietor JJ Gonson said Nov. 15 that Once’s application for the venue was rejected without much explanation – she applied in January and was rejected by February.

“We put together a proposal. We were told that we did get very, very, very far in the application process, but then very suddenly, we were told that we hadn’t gotten it,” Gonson said.

Once’s Somerville location shuttered in November 2020 from pandemic-related financial difficulties. Staff wanted to continue its programming at Oberon, where the versatility of the infrastructure would allow for a variety of musical acts and community services.

Once was one of the final candidates from a pool of dozens, Gonson said, but felt left in the dark for much of the application process, without financial guidelines for the proposal or an interview.

“I didn’t know if I should be offering $3 a month or $8 billion a month, I had no point of reference for it,” Gonson said.

She hasn’t heard about why Once was rejected, but described community members’ reactions as “just so bummed.” Moving into Oberon could have been “totally a great solution for a lot of people, because the fans of Once and the fans of Oberon both would have loved for that to have happened,” Gonson said.

Once does not have a central location, but sets up in venues including Somerville’s Boynton Yards and its Center for Arts at the Armory. A free series occurs Thursdays at La Brasa, a restaurant in East Somerville.

Oberon began as the Zero Arrow Theatre; A.R.T. artistic director Diane Paulus renamed it in 2009 to host her production of  “The Donkey Show.” The space fits 300 people and features a bar, 20-foot ceilings and a rehearsal space.

Regardless of whether Once was chosen, Gonson emphasizes that Oberon’s replacement will be important to the local arts scene.

“This could be such an amazing moment for Harvard to be like, ‘Hey, we recognize that there’s this really vibrant music and arts community in our area that needs a place to produce,’” Gonson said.


This post was updated Dec. 1, 2022, to correct that JJ Gonson spoke Nov. 15.