Updated Thu, Sep 19, 2013 2:38 pm
When Stuart’s Opera House reopened its doors in March 1997--following a devastating fire in March 1980--many areas in the beautiful old building were not yet fully refurbished.
Some 17 years later, Stuart’s Executive Director Tim Peacock and Marketing and Promotions Coordinator Brian Koscho have announced that some of those highly anticipated renovations are finally in the works.
"We are at a saturation point," Peacock explained during a Sept. 17 press event. "Something needs to be done if we are to take Stuart’s to the next level. The demand is growing, and we must be able to keep pace with it. We cannot do that in the space we have now."
Thanks to Stuart’s growing popularity, having hosted big name-acts like Lucinda Williams, Iris Dement, Yo La Tengo and Richard Thompson, and due to the theater's increasingly important status as a community center in Nelsonville, many of the renovations are simply necessary to maintaining and growing the success of the nonprofit organization.
The major work that is being planned includes an expansion of Stuart’s central lobby (also known as Gallery 1879) and use of the unutilized space in the adjoining Hoffman building.
Stuart’s currently operates its box office out of relatively cramped quarters in the small office space next to the main 52 Public Square entrance. The future work to the building would not only allow for a new box office space, it would also create a gift store area.
"Since we own all these storefronts," Peacock explained, referencing the brick buildings next to Stuart’s, "we’ll move our offices to the next storefront, and in the front section of the building, you’ll be able to walk in off the street during the day or when we're not having a show..that will be our box office."
Stuart’s main administrative quarters are currently strewn with various musical instruments, something that Peacock explained will contribute to yet another community-oriented project.
"The musical instruments sitting around here are for an upcoming after-school program for high school students that we're working on, one that will start next week," he said. The program will give high school students space and instruments--donated by locals--to create rock bands mentored by area musicians.
"It’s a brand new education component that we’re really excited about," said Peacock.
Renovated space in the Hoffman building would create new areas for Stuart’s to hold special educational events for local children. Approximately 25,000 people attend events at the Opera House each year, 8,000 of those being school-aged children.
Other after-school programs are in the works, including an intensive theater worskshop designed to instill positive skills in teenagers. In addition to the educational programs, the renovations will allow Stuart’s to schedule performances specifically geared towards a younger audience.
Besides creating new space for community activities, the building would finally have ample room for scenery and prop storage, rehearsal space and an additional performance area, not to mention the dressing rooms.
"I wish I could show you the dressing room we have now. It’s fine for acts like Yo La Tengo or a five-person company, but for some of the larger companies, it doesn’t work at all," Peacock said.
Although goals have been outlined, no date has been set for the renovations.
"We’ve met with our architect, and right now we're working on renderings, so it's really too early to give specific dates," explained Peacock.
Several donors have already stepped up, offering donations to help the Opera House reach its goals. Eventually Stuart’s will need to reach out to the public to find financial support for the renovations.
"This is definitely a multiple-year project," said Peacock. "The thing is, we've been feeling around to see if it's possible for us to do something like this, and we have discovered that it really is."