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In a historic move, the Virginia Repertory Theater has acquired the Scottish Rite Temple, which will become the new home of its children’s theatre. It will be known as the Virginia Rep Center for Arts and Education and will house children’s theater productions, educational touring programs, camps, classes and workshops.
The Scottish Rite Temple will be ready for use when the property is acquired on Tuesday 11 October. The facility includes three distinct performance areas – a 650-seat main auditorium and two smaller studio stages – which will increase the number and diversity of shows. There is rehearsal space for the 18 annual touring productions that reach more than 400,000 students and families across the country. In addition, it is possible to double the number of camps, courses and workshops currently offered.
The first show presented in the establishment will be It was the night before Christmas, just in time for the holidays. More details with show dates and times will be announced shortly. It will also be the future permanent residence of Gospel Nativitya new annual vacation partnership with Virginia Union University, home to the nation’s only gospel music degree program.
“Virginia Rep is arguably among the top five children’s theaters in the nation in terms of programming reach, geographic reach and audience size, but our facilities have not lived up to that distinction thus far. “said general manager Phil Whiteway. “After leaving our rented space at Willow Lawn during COVID and months of careful planning and due diligence, this investment will allow us to create a new path for the future of Virginia Rep’s children, family and schools programming, which represents approximately 50% of our total operation.
The theater company is paying $3.5 million for the purchase and will include a reserve of around $1.5 million as part of Phase 1 of the Great Stages campaign, which has a goal of $5.2 million of dollars.
“Our internal goal was to reach 50% of the $5.2M commitment before closing. We are proud to have achieved this goal. Leadership gifts include more than $1.1 million in commitments from our Board of Directors, as well as a generous $750,000 2:1 Challenge Grant issued by the Cabell Foundation, with additional support many other sources,” Whiteway reported.
The new building offers a major advantage for families and schools with a safe and secure drop-off and pick-up area, as well as a large lighted parking lot with 230 spaces. It is also accessible by public transport on the GRTC bus line.
“One of the really exciting aspects of the new building is the full commercial kitchen and dining area,” said Whiteway. “We envision many fun special events, community gatherings, themed character meals, and school group lunches taking place in this great space.”
The new Virginia Rep Center for Arts and Education is located at 4202 Hermitage Road in historic Richmond’s Hermitage Road adjacent to the Bellevue neighborhood near Bryan Park, allowing for outdoor programming and new community partnerships. This iconic building, the former home of the Richmond Children’s Theatre, has a long history as a performance venue. Virginia Rep preserves this legacy and will make it available to other local theaters, dance companies, schools, non-profit community organizations, and other arts and educational organizations in the area.
“With this project, we will save the historic Scottish Rite Temple, – ‘The Kennedy Center of Richmond’, as a performing arts space for RVA audiences,” Whiteway added. “Other parties interested in acquiring the property included real estate developers who, due to its convenient central location and off-street parking, sought to raze the building to build condos or apartments.”
In 1953, Virginia Rep (as Barksdale Theatre) saved the historic Hanover Tavern. And, 33 years later, in 1986, Virginia Rep (as Theater IV) saved the historic Empire Theater (now the November Theater). Now, 36 years later, Virginia Rep will save the historic Scottish Rite temple to become the Virginia Rep Center for Arts and Education.
Each year, the Virginia Repertory Theater performs live to approximately 530,000 children, teens, adults, and seniors, giving the theater the largest annual audience of any performing arts organization in Greater Richmond. The company produces professional seasons in three main locations; has an educational tour that has visited every school district in Virginia; a national tour to 32 states and Washington, DC and major community health and wellness initiatives that address complex social issues and educational challenges through the power of live theater.
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