State Funding For Arts Programs Would Help Pay For Theater Renovation
By FRANK RIZZO, Courant Staff Writer
February 21, 2008
Hartford Stage's renovation campaign of "at least $11 million" received a boost from the state Wednesday with Gov. M. Jodi Rell announcing that the theater would receive $2 million in bonding funds.
The money is earmarked as part of Rell's new $20 million bonding fund for capital projects related to the arts, culture and history around the state.
"We feel honored being the first arts group to receive these new funds," said Michael Wilson, artistic director of the theater for the past 10 years. "Three years ago, the governor made a half-million [dollar] commitment to Hartford Stage to study what it needed to facilitate its future. Three years later, she's coming back and saying, 'OK, I'm ready to release $2 million to jump-start your efforts.'" Wilson calls the state funding a "first-step commitment" toward a larger renovation and expansion campaign.
Architect Mitchell Kurtz, a leader in theater design, was named to head the Hartford Stage renovation. The project will feature a renovation of the lobby and backstage space — including modestly enlarging the footprint of the building — and updating the theater to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act — including an elevator, additional bathrooms and special seating in the 489-seat theater.
A rendering and diagrams of the new theater are expected to be shown at the theater's annual meeting in late spring. Kurtz was the architect for such high-profile makeovers as the off-Broadway theaters for Playwrights Horizons, Signature Theater Company and the New York Theater Workshop.
"He's one of the most exciting architects working in the American theater," said Wilson, who has extended his own contract with the theater until July 2011.
It has not been determined when the renovation will begin, but Wilson said the theater won't change its September through June schedule for the 2008-09 season. A timeline for the project will be announced in late spring.
The renovation is part of a larger campaign that includes a $10 million addition to its $6 million endowment and a further expansion of the theater complex on Trumbull Street with a new, second stage, additional patron amenities and educational facilities.
Managing director Michael Stotts said the state contribution will act as "a great boost" and will help spur further fundraising "during this quiet phase of the campaign."
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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