Two theatre companies recently became owners of their own performing spaces. This weekend, we attended the celebration of the purchase of Church Street Theatre by its resident company Keegan Theatre (more on that soon.)
The second piece of good news arrived on Friday, June 22nd, when Woolly Mammoth Theatre Company announced that it had purchased its facility at 641 D Street NW in downtown DC on May 2nd. The company, begun in 1980 by Artistic Director Howard Shalwitz and Roger Brady, had several locations including 14 years in a warehouse space at Church and 14th Streets before moving into its D Street location in May, 2005.
According to its press release, it took 7 years to bring Woolly Mammoth from its warehouse space and four years of producing at the Kennedy Center and Theater J into its new home. According to the press release, the process “began in 1998, when Woolly partnered with JPI Apartment Development LP on the winning bid to develop a city block-sized parcel, located in the Penn Quarter neighborhood, between 6th and 7th Streets and D and E Streets, NW. Designed by Esocoff and Associates, this mixed-use development was to include 428 residential units, retail, parking, and a state-of-the-art, 265-seat theatre space. The developers provided the theatre shell to Woolly Mammoth free-of-charge and the Company then completed a $9 million “Breaking New Ground” capital campaign to support the interior build-out and inhabitance costs.
Designed by McInturff Architects in Bethesda, the new theatre doubled Woolly Mammoth’s seating capacity, quadrupled its square footage, and expanded the stage volume ten-fold. The theatre also won numerous awards for architecture and design, including a 2006 American Institute of Architects Honor Award for Interior Architecture and a 2006 United States Institute for Theatre Technology Honor Award.”
Managing Director Jeffrey Herrmann told Nelson Pressley of the Washington Post that last summer the building’s owners, JPI Apartment Development, offered to sell the space to the company. The exact terms of the deal have not been made public, but Herrmann said “It’s an insanely generous price. People wouldn’t believe me if I told them what it was.”
Herrmann, in Friday’s press release stated that Woolly has flourished in its state-of-the-art downtown venue, “… our budget and attendance more than doubling and our work receiving 103 Helen Hayes Awards nominations and 20 awards over this period of time. We look forward to continuing our trajectory as a unique resource for DC artists and audiences in the Penn Quarter neighborhood with this incredible new asset now on our balance sheet.”
And Shalwitz, perhaps thinking back to 1980 when his new company emerged intent on producing “a new kind of theatre that would shake up the nation” concluded with “This latest achievement symbolically stakes Woolly’s place at the center of downtown DC and Washington’s cultural life.”