Construction on Cincinnati Shakespeare Company's new theater nears completion

Shakespeare Co.'s new theater nears completion
Posted at 1:06 PM, Mar 24, 2017
and last updated 2017-03-24 13:06:55-04

CINCINNATI -- Shakespeare himself couldn’t have written a better success story.

Construction is scheduled to wrap up in May on the new Cincinnati Shakespeare Company theater in Over-the-Rhine, and ticket sales are up months in advance.

Actors won’t take the stage at the Otto M. Budig Theatre until September, but the perennial favorite Dracula has some shows close to selling out, something that has Artistic Director Brian Isaac Phillips on cloud nine.

"After years and years of trying to get the word out about our existence, the fact that so many people are going to now be aware of us and what we do, it's going to be a gamechanger for the company and the community,” Phillips said.

Located at the now-demolished Drop Inn Center at 12th and Elm streets, this new $17.5 million theater has lots of windows, even inside, where theater-goers can look down to the where the sets will be built.

“(We want) to be able to show the magic or how we make the magic when we want to, but also be able to hold some of it back so there's still the element of surprise,” Phillips said.

Set construction at the new theater will be far more streamlined than their current process: They construct sets in Camp Washington, break them down and transport them through a standard doorway to be rebuilt at the current location on Race Street.

That Race Street location is an old, single-screen movie theater that seats just 150. The new theater nearly doubles capacity to almost 300 seats. No one, even in the balcony, will sit further than 20 feet from the stage.

"You're extremely close to the action; it is within reach,” Phillips said.

They are also renovating the historic Teamsters building next door into their offices, a costume shop and classroom space. There are whimsical touches as well, such as a set of steps honoring each work in Shakespeare’s canon and a beam signed by donors and staff.

"And if you take a close look in the middle, you'll see that my daughter managed to sign bigger than anybody else,” Phillips said. "She is four years old and made sure she put a circle around it.”

Phillips said this location was strategic for the company.

“You have the Symphony, the Ballet, the Opera ... the May Festival. We thought to put the Shakespeare Company here would complete the Classic Corridor for Cincinnati. But not just the Classic Corridor, the Arts Corridor because of the Ensemble Theatre and the Know Theatre being there as well,” Phillips said.

Artswave President and CEO Alecia Kintner said “there's an incredible convergence of artistic leadership and philanthropy and vision and volunteerism all at once, a little bit coincidentally.”

Music Hall is currently undergoing a massive makeover, the Ensemble Theater is growing and Playhouse in the Park across town on Mount Adams is expanding as well. This all comes as Artswave is in the middle of its most ambitious funding campaign to date.

"I think it's unusual for a city of any size. We have a tremendous array of arts and cultural organizations,” Kintner said.

For more information, please visit the theater’s website here.