Black box theater celebrates groundbreakingArts Connection celebrated the groundbreaking for the Dorothy K. Merill Community Arts Center's black box theater at East Ridge High School last week.
By: Amber Kispert-Smith, Woodbury Bulletin
A black box theater will be an attachment to the Loft Stage at the school.
Plans call for a 112-seat black box theater attached to the high school that will be used for smaller performances and rehearsal space.
Construction on the 66-feet-by-51-feet black box theater is expected to be completed this fall.
The black box theater will join the already established Dorothy K. Merrill Community Arts Center at its Rivertown Campus.
A long journey
The quest for a community arts center started back in 2004.
The initial vision, by Arts Connection, was to a build a $4.1 million community arts center, to be attached to East Ridge High School’s Loft Stage. Originally, it was to include a black box theater, an art gallery, storage space, prop studio, administrative offices, rehearsal space, classrooms and a set studio.
Arts Connection received a $1.4 million donation from Woodbury resident Dorothy K. Merrill.
But last May when the Arts Connection opened up construction bids for the project it was quickly realized that the project was going to cost much more than anticipated.
Bids revealed that Arts Connection was between $500,000 and $800,000 under budget and that renovation and expansions would pose a lot of challenges in order to be attached to the school.
Arts Connection revisited an option that had always been discussed — maintain the black box theater attached to East Ridge but move the “back end” functions, such as the set shop, costume design and rehearsal space, to a second location.
The black box theater was the only shared space in the development agreement.
Arts Connection eventually found a commercial property, a former architectural showroom, at 380 Rivertown Drive for a cost of $450,000.
The 8,000 square foot building includes space for theater set design building, costume and prop production and storage, visual art design and display, administrative offices and meeting rooms, and space for rehearsals and gatherings to support the craft of arts in the community.
Additionally, Arts Connection is in the process of acquiring a neighboring space that can potentially be used for an art gallery.
The agreement will last for 99 years.
Michelle Witte, executive director of Arts Connection and producer for the Woodbury Community Theatre, said it is a wonderful feeling to know that the full arts center vision has become a reality.
“Perseverance is the word of our story,” she said. “Having the Woodbury Community Theatre perform the ‘Wizard of Oz’ this summer is very appropriate since it’s felt like we’ve been in a cyclone.
“We’re on the Yellow Brick Road and we’ll get to that rainbow.”