Despite renovations, show will go on

October 01, 1997


Staff Writer

The Maryland Theatre is getting a $107,779 makeover that includes replacing some original equipment that dates back to 1915, the theater's acting executive director said Wednesday.

The renovations will help improve the ambience of the historic South Potomac Street theater and will encourage others to rent the theater for their own productions, said Patricia Wolford, who also is theater board president.

Much of the renovation work is expected to be done by Friday in time for a 7:30 p.m. performance of "Carousel," Wolford said.


Wolford said she expects the theater to lose money on the "Carousel" show and a Saturday concert by the Irish Rovers.

Fewer than 300 tickets have been sold for each show, Wolford said. "Carousel" will cost the theater $25,000, while bringing in the seven-member band will cost $20,000, she said.

If the theater takes a big loss on the two shows, theater officials probably will no longer back such shows, according to Wolford. Instead, the theater will rent the theater to others because that offers guaranteed income, she said. The only other show scheduled for the current fiscal year that isn't a rental is "Bye Bye Birdie," to be presented in March, she said.

The renovation work was funded by donations and a state matching grant approved for the theater in 1991, she said. As a stipulation of the matching grant, theater officials couldn't use that money until after they had spent $175,000 of the theater's funds on renovations, Wolford said. That stipulation was met in July, she said.

Renovation work includes:

* Replacing 14,000 feet of manila rope, much of which dates back to 1915, that helps hold stage lights and scenery over the stage. The replacement synthetic rope is three times as strong.

* Reinforcing piping that holds the lights and scenery.

* Buying 10 more 200-pound sandbags used as counterweights for scenery and lights. With the addition, the theater will have 8,000 pounds of sandbags.

* Installing new carpeting in dressing rooms and the downstairs administrative offices.

* Finishing walls in several dressing rooms, including one on the stage level where a wall full of autographs was destroyed because the plaster behind it had crumbled.

* Removing a 10,000-gallon heating oil tank from the heating system. The theater is switching to natural gas heat.

* Installing a safety cage around the ladder to the catwalk.

* Replacing original curtains to the lower- and balcony-level box seats.

* Adding seven commodes to the upstairs women's restroom.

All renovations are expected to be complete by the end of the year, Wolford said.

About $52,000 was spent on renovations late last year, she said. That work included reupholstering the theater's 1,325 seats, painting and wallpapering the lobby, landscaping the area in front of the theater and insulating boiler pipes so the hot air wouldn't affect the tuning of the Wurlitzer organ.

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