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BPA Playhouse plans to expand

A pre-fab rehearsal space will be added to the back of the building.

At Bainbridge Performing Arts, the shows – plural – must go on.

The theater company plans to put a 3,000-square-foot addition on the Playhouse’s east side, facing Ericksen Avenue, an annex that will increase the number of productions BPA can produce and host.

“It gives us flexibility so that we can do more shows and other organizations can do more, too,” said Per Sherwin, managing director. “Right now, we have to turn people away because we’re at capacity.”

The 100-by-30-foot prefabricated addition by Oregon-based Web Steel Buildings will consist of two structures of corrugated steel, connected by a breezeway. One space – designed to duplicate the dimensions of the main stage – will be used for rehearsals, and the other will be dedicated to technical theater classes and storage.

The company will also gain needed space for sets and props that have until recently been stored behind the Playhouse in a gazebo – an option lost when the gazebo found a new, permanent home on Winslow Green.

“We really do need that storage, because we recycle and reuse everything,” Sherwin said. “We’re not like a lot of ‘equity theaters’ who just throw everything out after a production and start over.”

The project will cost $79,600, most of which has already been pledged by private donors, BPA board president James Quitslund said. BPA is seeking the balance, some $15,000, from the city.

A contingency funding request went before the City Council this week, after BPA was mistakenly disqualified from consideration for “hotel/motel tax” monies dedicated to enhancing tourism. The grant application was referred to committee for consideration, with several council members expressing their support.

A pre-engineered module is a cost-effective way to gain more space, said architect and project consultant Peter O’Connor. If BPA remodels the Playhouse more extensively in the future, the modular building could be dismantled and sold.

“We’re not being intrusive to the Playhouse’s footprint,” Sherwin said.

The addition has been a long-term goal for the theater company, which built the Playhouse in 1993 on city-owned property after a $1.2 million fund-raising campaign.

The Playhouse was conceived as a community resource as well as a home for the local theater, but space constraints and competing rehearsal schedules have made sharing the building difficult.

The building now includes a single classroom and a small conference room; the theater lobby is pressed into service as an ad hoc classroom and gallery.

The facility may serve as many as 500 play-goers and students in a single week.

“It seems every couple of months we have rehearsal for three productions going on simultaneously,” Sherwin said. “It will really, really help to have another space the same size as the main stage for rehearsals.

“This was one of the first things we addressed when I became managing director a year and a half ago. There had to be a way to provide a good rehearsal space and an intimate performance space.”

The last few years have seen productions by non-BPA groups like Island Theatre, and an expanded music program. BPA itself plans a new summer theater festival this coming July.

“It’s so exciting, not only for BPA but for the community,” Sherwin said. “I’ve spoken with so many organizations who can make use of the space. We’ll be able to bring in so many more, and bigger, productions.”

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