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Artist Jane Kennelly’s depiction of the front of the Firehouse Theatre on Park Avenue in
downtown Blowing Rock.
ILLUSTRATION SUBMITTED



Originally published: 2014-06-25 14:52:45
Last modified: 2014-06-25 14:53:29

Blowing Rock theater plans unveiled

by Jeff Eason

Plans for the new Firehouse Theatre were unveiled at a special presentation in Blowing Rock Town Hall Tuesday afternoon. 

If all goes as planned, the new 121-seat theater, located in the former home of the Blowing Rock Fire Station on Park Avenue in downtown Blowing Rock, will feature the theater's first stage production in May 2015 by Ensemble Stage.

"The town of Blowing Rock will own the Firehouse Theatre, and Ensemble Stage will have a home there," said Lynn Lawrence, president of the Ensemble Stage board and member of the Firehouse Theatre Committee. 

During the presentation, an artist's renditions of the front and interior of the Firehouse Theatre were unveiled, as well as a new logo and a new website, http://www.firehousetheatre.net.

"Jane Kennelly, an artist from Asheville, designed the look of the new theater," Lawrence said. "She came to Blowing Rock and walked around and looked at our historical buildings. Her design was partially inspired by the Icehouse, one of the oldest buildings in Blowing Rock, over on Maple Street."

"It's going to be beautiful, with offices and rehearsal space upstairs and the theater, box office and lobby downstairs," she said. 

Bryan Summers, chairman of the Firehouse Theatre Committee, presented a PowerPoint presentation to Blowing Rock Mayor J.B. Lawrence, Councilman Dan Phillips, Town Manager Scott Fogleman, Police Chief Tony Jones and others at the presentation.

"Our immediate goal is to create a capital project for improvements to the building," Summers said. "We are looking for 10 investors for that project and we were successful at finding four of them at a dinner and meeting last night." 

According to Summers, when the Firehouse Theatre is opened, it will house Ensemble Stage productions all 12 months of the year, in addition to other public uses of the building. 

"The stage itself is on risers so that it can be lowered for other uses,"  Summers said. "It's downtown location will be critical because it will be within walking distance of Blowing Rock shops and hotels."

According to Summers, the initial expense for the Firehouse Theatre will be spent on the infrastructure of the building, which the town of Blowing Rock has been using for storage for nearly a decade. 

He said that estimates on that initial expenditure are in the $80,000 range. 

Now that Ensemble Stage has been in existence for more than five years, it is eligible for many more grants than it had been previously, Summers said. That new eligibility has made Ensemble Stage attractive to other communities and, according to Ensemble Stage managing director Lisa Lamont, representatives from the town of Banner Elk approached the company about such a move last November. 

Since its inception in 2009, Ensemble Stage has staged the majority of its productions in Blowing Rock School's auditorium, sharing the space with Mountain Home Music and various other groups. 

According to Summers, the school will conduct major renovations to the auditorium beginning this September, forcing Ensemble Stage to leave the premises. 

According to Summers, in the Firehouse Theatre's fundraising efforts, the public and private sector has several naming opportunities. 

For $500,000, a donor could name the theater. For $250, a donor could name the auditorium. For $150, a donor could name the lobby. 

All three naming opportunities also include prominent placement on promotional materials and free seating for stage productions for 10 years.

According to Summers, the project schedule for the Firehouse Theatre includes a "Raise the Curtain Kick Off" event on Monday, June 16; a projected goal of $500,000 for construction by Aug. 15; submitting final plans for approval to the Blowing Rock Town Council on Sept. 8; beginning of construction on Nov. 3; having the project fully funded by Feb. 15, 2105; and a grand opening of the Firehouse Theatre on May 1, 2015. 

"Ensemble Stage is too valuable an asset for Blowing Rock to lose,"  Summers said. "In less than six years, the company has generated $11,000 in ticket sales. Half of those attending shows are locals and half are from out of town. Seventy five percent of those coming in from out of town stayed at least one night in town, creating business for our hotels, restaurants and shops." 

Ensemble Stage opens its 2014 summer season with the comedy "Tuna Does Vegas" on Saturday, June 21 at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium. The show runs through Sunday, June 29, and tickets are on sale now. 

For more information, call (828) 414-1844.