Maryland theatre likely to get grant

July 25, 1997


Staff Writer

The Maryland Theatre probably will get a grant from the Maryland State Arts Council, but a smaller one than expected, officials said Thursday.

Jim Backas, executive director of the Maryland State Arts Council, said he will recommend the historic South Potomac Street theater get a grant, but said it probably wouldn't be the $35,000 the theater expected to receive.

The size of the grant will be cut because the theater is no longer assuming the financial risk of producing its own programming, Backas said. Instead, the theater is rented to other production groups.


Theater officials decided earlier this year to stick to rentals because they don't pose a financial risk for the theater.

Backas wouldn't say how much he would recommend the council approve for the theater. Any council grant would go toward theater maintenance.

"They are the operators of a splendid theater we all want to keep going," Backas said.

He said the council will decide at its Sept. 23 meeting whether to give the theater a grant and how much.

Theater board President Patricia Wolford said the theater's rental rate would have to be increased to make up for any reduction in the grant amount.

Wolford said she has put off signing a rental contract with the Maryland Symphony Orchestra, preferring to wait until she knows how much arts council money the theater can expect to receive.

The MSO's rate, which is bare-bones now, might have to be increased, she said.

MSO Managing Director Marc Levy could not be reached for comment.

The symphony rents the theater for seven or eight concerts a year and for several practices, Wolford said. The MSO's season begins in October.

Theater officials also are waiting to find out if the Washington County Gaming Commission will approve a $130,000 funding request.

The Gaming Commission expects to have about $1.07 million to distribute on Aug. 4, said Director Kathy Sterling.

About 60 percent, or $643,936, will go to charities and nonprofit organizations, Sterling said. The remaining 40 percent, or $429,291, will go to the Washington County Fire and Rescue Association for distribution to local fire and rescue companies.

Theater officials want the $130,000 to pay off the remaining debt on its mortgage from Bulldog Federal Credit Union, officials have said.

Bulldog loaned the money in March so the theater could meet a balloon mortgage payment due at the end of May to a group of local banks.

It was the last payment on a $250,000 mortgage taken out in 1994 when the theater was in the midst of a financial crisis.

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