“It’s a big warehouse, basically empty with a nice tall ceiling, a little over 5,000 sq feet plus a small second floor that’s been built along one end, adding a nice amount of office space so we don’t have to eat up the playing space.” That’s Adele Robey, co-founder of H Street Playhouse, enthusing over the space in historic Anacostia that will become her next theatre location.
The theatre, as yet unnamed, will be located at 2020 Shannon Place, SE. The building is owned by Curtis Properties and Fourpoints Development and the new theatre owners will have it on a 5 year lease with a 5 year option. While H Street Playhouse had seating for 100, the new black box space will flexible seating for up to 150.
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Robey plans to attract audiences from the rapidly growing Anacostia neighborhoods as well as drawing active theatergoers from around the area. There are two restaurants and galleries close by. “But that will change. With the St. Elizabeth’s project up the road and the foot traffic we’ll help bring, eateries will start opening. And it’s so close to the Hill, you can eat on Barracks Row or near the Nationals stadium and be in Anacostia in 5 minutes. Even from H Street it’s a straight shot across the 11th Street Bridge and a 10 minute drive,” she added.
In January, we learned, as announced first in City Paper, that the owners of the building at 1365 H Street NE declined to renew the H Street Playhouse lease as of February 1, 2013. Robey immediately began a search for a new location.
Here’s what happened next: “After City Paper published online that we were going to have to move, ARCH Development, the non-profit arts developer in Anacostia, called and asked us to consider taking a look over there. We already knew the COO, Phil Hutinet, from his gallery days on H Street. When we saw the space we knew it was perfect. Proximity is great, and there is parking galore. There is a circulator stop at the corner and the metro is about 5 blocks away. Historic Anacostia is charming and very appealing. It’s a stark difference from what H Street was like when we opened there.”
Robey estimates the cost to get the new space ready to open will be about $250,000. Construction pre-planning meetings start this week. “We think Phase 2 will be façade, and probably adding some second story space inside for rehearsal rooms.” Robey said, adding that she hopes the new space will become a true 24/7 activity hub.
It’s too early to announce which companies will be anchoring the new Anacostia theatre, but the press release reports interest is high. If all proceeds as planned, the new theatre will stage an open house in next January, and the first companies will begin productions in February, 2013.
But first, there is the job of closing H Street Playhouse. Appropriately enough, Theater Alliance which began at H Street Playhouse in 2002 and has staged many memorable productions there, will close the Playhouse with its productions of Night Before Christmas and Wonderful Life on December 30, 2012.
On closing night, it will be Clarence who gets his wings and Jason Lott who realizes that George is “the richest man in town’. If, like George, we might wonder what life would have been like had the Robeys not opened H Street Playhouse, here’s what we would have missed.
The H Street Playhouse has been the site of over 100 fully mounted, full length and multiple-week-run productions. The Playhouse has hosted countless readings of new works, outreach events to the community and schools, concerts, camps, sketch comedy and poetry slams. Its stage has been home to many theater and production companies, a number of whom are multiple Helen Hayes nominees and awardees.
Some of those companies are: Theater Alliance Scena Theater No Rules Theater Company Forum Theatre African Continuum Theatre Company Solas Nua Restoration Stage Madcap Players Verbal Gymnastics The Inkwell The Essential Theater Company Brick Penguin Landless Theater Journeyman Theatre Dance Institute of Washington Renegade Players Positive Scribe Productions.