Under Construction: Center Stage.
Under Construction: Center Stage. Photo by Ed Gunts.

Seven months after Center Stage closed for a $32 million renovation and expansion, construction has passed the halfway point and directors are getting ready to reopen in phases starting this fall.

The regional theater at 700 N. Calvert Street opened its doors recently for a hard hat tour to show the progress made since construction began in January.

The project involves some renovations to the 510-seat Pearlstone Theater downstairs and a complete reconfiguration and expansion of the Head Theater upstairs, including a new lobby and bar and seating for 350 to 410.

Head Theater
Head Theater

Other work includes the addition of a 99-seat theater on the upper level, an enlarged main lobby with a new box office, café and lounge areas, a new entrance plaza and marquee, and a dedicated education and community programming studio providing additional space for classes and workshops.

The expanded lobby.
The expanded lobby.
The hard hat tour - Center Stage

Started more than 50 years ago and also known as the State Theater of Maryland, Center Stage has been housed since 1974 in the former Loyola College and Preparatory School on Calvert Street. While renovations are underway, it has been presenting shows at Towson University. Cho Benn  Holback + Associates of Baltimore is the lead architect for the renovations. Charcoalblue of London is the theater consultant and lead designer for the new Head Theater. Whiting-Turner is the construction manager.

In late July, Center Stage was the focus of a hard hat construction tour organized by the Baltimore chapter of the American Institute of Architects and the Baltimore Architecture Foundation.

According to Center Stage’s 2016-2017 schedule, the Pearlstone Theater will reopen for performances in November, and the refurbished Head Theater and the 99-seat theater will open in the spring of 2017.  The first performance in the renovated Pearlstone Theater will be Les Liaisons Dangereuses, an 18th-century French love story, from November 26 to December 23, 2016. The first performance in the new Head Theater will be Mary Zimmerman’s The White Snake, an adapted Chinese fable, from February 24 to March 26, 2017.

Other productions include Twisted Melodies, a tribute to American soul musician Donny Hathaway, from March 17 to April 16, 2017, and the world premiere adaptation of Jazz, based on the book by Toni Morrison, from May 19 to June 25, 2017. Artistic director Kwame Kwei-Armah promises it will be a “season of transformation.”

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Ed Gunts

Ed Gunts is a local freelance writer and the former architecture critic for The Baltimore Sun.