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Man says arts center a perfect for for Greencastle area

September 09, 2005|by RICHARD F. BELISLE

waynesboro@herald-mail.com

GREENCASTLE, Pa. - Brian Sullivan has a $10 million dream to create a 3,000-seat performing arts center in the Greencastle area but not 10 cents to pay for it.

"I know it's highly ambitious," the 41-year-old Hagerstown resident and head carpenter at New York's Metropolitan Opera said. "But people are moving into the area who are familiar with the arts and culture. They're going to demand a facility like this and it's not here."

Sullivan envisions the center as a venue for touring Broadway plays and opera companies, for new works like the Contemporary American Theater Festival in Shepherdstown, W.Va., for live music concerts by headline acts as well as a place for local arts and cultural events. It also would be a major area educational center for the arts, he said.

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A 1982 Smithsburg High School graduate, Sullivan said he grew up not knowing about opera.

"I didn't like it because I was never taught about it. Being ignorant of the arts is not a nice way to grow up," he said.

Sullivan said funding for his center could come from such sources as the National Endowment of the Arts, corporate sponsors and foundations.

"There is money out there for this and I know grant writers in New York who can go after it," he said.

"I'm starting out on a shoestring. I have no money, only the idea, the dream," he said. "I know it sounds off the wall, pie in the sky, but if it's not done today it will be done years down the line. It's going to happen so we might as well benefit from it now."

The Greencastle/Antrim Township area is the perfect location for a center, he said.

"There's Interstates 81 and 70. It will draw people from Pennsylvania, Maryland, Virginia, West Virginia," Sullivan said.

The first step, he said, is to secure a lease on about 200 acres for a site for the center.

Sullivan spent 12 years in the Army as a tank commander in an armored unit. After his discharge, he set out to follow his dream career - building sets for television, movies and live stage performances.

He heard of a job in an opera company in Norfolk, Va. He got the position.

"I had no experience, but I did have the desire to do it," he said.

After a year, he saved enough money to pay two months' rent on a New York apartment. When he arrived, he checked the phone book for the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees Union.

"I went to the union hall and was told to wait in a room with other people looking for day work," he said. "I was there every day for six weeks before I got my first job. It was rebuilding a set of Bourbon Street for a television pilot show that flopped."

Work became regular after that. Sullivan found himself building sets for television shows like "Saturday Night Live," "Dateline" and "48 Hours." Eight years ago, he landed the job at the Metropolitan Opera.

"We work at night," he said. "As soon as the final curtain falls, my crew starts taking the set down and getting ready for the next day's performance," he said.

Sullivan works nights Monday through Friday at the Metropolitan, plus does some day work on cable television sets. He commutes to Hagerstown on weekends to be with his wife, Toni.

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