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Grace Billingsley, executive director of High Tide Theatricals, showcases the Martha’s Vineyard multipurpose venue. 
Grace Billingsley, executive director of High Tide Theatricals, showcases the Martha’s Vineyard multipurpose venue. 

Martha’s Vineyard launches new venue in former record store 

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Last edited 1:21 p.m., Jan., 8, 2024 [Editor's note: An incorrect date has been fixed.]

Martha’s Vineyard LLC hosted the first event in its new multipurpose venue, located one door east of the nightclub and bar, on Friday night. 

Workers had finished installing the room’s flooring less than three hours before the first guest arrived. 

The open house was held both to unveil the venue and to announce the second season of High Tide Theatrical Inc., starting with “Red Hot & Backwards,” a fundraiser for AIDS Project of the Ozarks, on Feb. 18. The season also will include “Tick, Tick … Boom!” April 12-20, “Next to Normal” Aug. 16-24 and a return of “The Rocky Horror Show” Oct. 11-26. 

High Tide is housed in Martha’s Vineyard, 215 W. Olive St., an entertainment destination featuring drag performances. The adjacent multipurpose venue, planned for more than a year, was delayed by a property dispute between Martha’s Vineyard and its former tenant, Heavy Heads Records LLC. 

Heavy Heads vacated the premises in November, according to Martha’s Vineyard owner Weston Donham. Martha’s Vineyard filed an unlawful detainer suit, claiming the record store had occupied the property past its lease agreement. A judgment entered by Greene County Circuit Court Judge J. Ronald Carrier on Aug. 21, 2023, granted possession of the premises to Martha’s Vineyard and ruled against defendants Heavy Heads Records, Christopher Grant and Lee Doe. The ruling describes a lease agreement written by a defendant for a period of one year beginning March 1, 2022, but it notes the plaintiff did not execute the lease as it was not signed by the plaintiff. 

The defendants appealed the circuit court’s ruling to the Missouri Court of Appeals, Southern District, but later filed a voluntary dismissal on Dec. 6. 

Donham said the rental issue was complicated because the terms were set up by a previous owner, and they were not completed with a formal written agreement. Martha’s Vineyard was founded in 1994, and Donham took over ownership of the complex, including the property occupied by the record store, on Jan. 1, 2023. 

“It just got really hairy,” he said, “but we made it through, and everything is smooth sailing from here.” 

Martha’s Vineyard first attempted to evict the record store by posting a notice on Feb. 22, 2023, with the requirement that they vacate the premises by March 31. 

Heavy Heads’ Facebook page reveals that it has transitioned to an online sales model, including an app available in Apple’s App Store and a physical booth at Relics Antique Mall. 

The retailer has a steady presence on its Facebook page, with YouTube videos – the last one posted on Jan. 5 – promoting its stock of used and vintage merchandise. 

Heavy Heads ownership could not be reached for comment by deadline. 

High Tide Theatrical had planned to mount its Nov. 9-18, 2023, run of “The Rocky Horror Show” in the contested space. Just one month before the first curtain, High Tide officials announced an agreement with the Ozarks Regional YMCA to create a temporary stage at the Yellow Bonnet building purchased by the Y on Oct. 8. 

Donham, who is president of the High Tide Theatrical Board of Directors, said the new venue will have its own name, which is yet to be decided, and it will be separate from the nightclub and bar. The space will be open until 4 a.m. and will serve breakfast foods and recovery drinks after 12:45 a.m., Donham said. The goal is to aid bargoers who want to make good decisions, he said. 

Donham said he has experience in theater, mostly on the technical side, as a student at Kickapoo High School, where he graduated in 2013. 

“It’s something really cool to be able to have a space to continue something like that,” he said. “I never thought that would happen, but it just kind of did.” 

He added that the small space is ideal for the kinds of shows High Tide produces. 

“It’s a more intimate space, so I think you can really do shows that are more moving or that help us realize something that maybe we didn’t know,” he said. 

Joshua David Smith, artistic director of High Tide, said the shows chosen by the company feature intimate themes, and they are well suited to the small venue, with audience members positioned near or even among the actors. 

“The performances with the kinds of topics that are being discussed will really lend themselves to that experience, and just theater in a different way than Springfield is used to,” he said. 

Grace Billingsley, executive director, said she was excited to see how the director of each High Tide show transforms the space into what she called “a really cool immersive experience for Springfield.” 

She said the venue will seat 60-80 people. 

“That’s the kind of the theater that we’re trying to bring – things that maybe are more obscure or that call for a smaller space in order to better tell the story,” she said. 


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