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Downtown Hagerstown theater, banquet center takes center stage

November 18, 2008|By ANDREW SCHOTZ

HAGERSTOWN -- Hagerstown's newest theater venue received good reviews Tuesday.

"We hope that this will be just another jewel in the crown for Hagerstown," co-owner Michael Guessford said about the renovated former Tusing Warehouse.

Through 18 months of work, the empty warehouse building has been transformed into a theater and banquet center.

Elected officials and other community leaders filed into the Academy Theatre Banquet & Conference Center off East Washington Street to celebrate the opening of the new venue.

They shared the stage on the first floor and a meal on the second floor, where Applause Catering will be in business.

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For the Potomac Playmakers, a community theater group, the building will be their home.

"We're going to put on the same caliber of shows in a really nice theater," said Ruth Ridenour, a member of the group.

Pamphlets spread out at the theater Tuesday advertised the Playmakers' 83rd season, which opens Jan. 30, 2009.

The theater and banquet hall project was the work of Guessford and Milton Stamper.

Stamper said Tuesday that he and Guessford were proud of their work and hopes it helps the city.

Last year, the Hagerstown City Council awarded Stamper the right to buy the building from the city for $110,000.

The council picked his plan for the property over three other proposals.

Washington County Commissioner Kristin B. Aleshire, who was on the city council when it reviewed the four proposals, quipped that he couldn't remember which one he supported. But, if it was Stamper's and Guessford's plan, he would like to say "I told you so."

Stamper said last month that the project cost $1.3 million, almost half of which was funded through state loans. The city also helped, along with other loans and private investments.

Thomas B. Riford, president and CEO of the Hagerstown-Washington County Convention & Visitors Bureau and the master of ceremonies of Tuesday's event, said the catering hall on the second has room for about 175 people and the theater on the first floor has 208 seats.

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