Before the Secret Garden officially opened on the stage Friday night, Center Stage pulled back the curtain on plans for renovations at the theater’s longtime home on Calvert St. in Mt. Vernon. In the theater’s upper room, Artistic Director Kwame Kwei-Armah told a crowd of political and business leaders that Center Stage has already raised $21.5 million of the $32 million necessary to complete the project.
The event was the official kickoff for the Campaign for Center Stage. Work is set to begin in January on the project that will redesign the Head Theater, create a new education center and lobby area, and make upgrades to technology.
The theater’s upstairs performance space is one of the focal points of the upgrades, with British theater and acoustics firm Charcoalblue handling the redesign. The 400-seat Head Theater will be able to be reconfigured into three distinct arrangements. At the back of the Head, there will be a new 99-seat theater is also being created that is envisioned as space for emerging artists, students and families.
“It will change the palette. It allow the next generation of theater makers to really feel they have a foothold in this theater,” Kwei-Armah said.
The downstairs theater is not slated for upgrades. Outside the Head Theater, crews will construct a new lobby with restored windows and a full bar.
A new education studio is also planned to provide a dedicated space for students, as well as a costume shop. Other upgrades to the entranceway to the theater include a new box office, additional cafe and bar space. To the delight of several patrons in attendance, bathrooms will also get an upgrade.
According to a press release, the Campaign for Center Stage has received gifts of more than $1 million from the State of Maryland, as well as seven private donors. Foundations and other donors have also contributed.
Center Stage will relocate to Towson University for 2016 while the renovations are completed.