Alexandria’s only professional theater, MetroStage, will reopen its curtains in a brand new venue, or Venue, i.e. one of the new sleek and chic residential condominium complexes being built in Old Town North .
The non-profit 501(c)3 MetroStage will move into Venue on North Fairfax Street, fully equipped with a performance stage, coffee tables, theater seating and a concession bar.
The venue will include new high-rise condominiums as well as luxury townhouses along the Potomac in Old Town North, Alexandria’s arts and culture district. Built by Carr Companies, which has a long-standing relationship with MetroStage, Venue will not only host Alexandria residents, but also Alexandria’s only professional theater.
Founded in 1984, MetroStage was a brand new theater (incorporated as American Showcase Theater Co. Inc.) until recent business school graduate Carolyn Griffin attended a performance showcasing the new theater to the community. She had always loved the theater and she was addicted.
After that first screening, Griffin approached founding artistic director Jill Kamp to join the board, and that afternoon she was the general manager. Thirty-seven years later, Carolyn is still in the theater as an Artistic Director Producer; in fact, she leads their new chapter at Venue.
Over the years, MetroStage has had many homes. Its first two locations were on Duke Street; in 1987 they operated from spaces owned by Carr Companies (then The Oliver Carr Company); then they moved to Old Town North at 1201 North Royal, where Muse condominiums will open soon. Now, its fourth and final location will be located in the heart of Alexandria’s arts and culture district: 915 North Fairfax Street, along the iconic waterfront, in another Carr Companies building.
Griffin is proud of the history of her theater, where she comes from and how far she’s come, both literally and figuratively. She is also eager to show off all that she has planned for their new build and productions.
In 2019 the old MetroStage on North Royal was demolished and construction of the new Venue and MetroStage began. Significant progress has been made on condos, townhouses and the theater shell. The shell will be an empty space of 7,500 square feet, which the theater will occupy. In return for Carr’s generous offer, the theater must raise funds to “furnish” the space. Griffin is to raise the $2.6 million, according to architect Skip Maginniss, and hopes to open in the 2022-23 season. The theater design is complete and construction will begin as soon as the fundraising campaign reaches its goal. You can donate here to help them achieve this.
When the theater reopens, get ready for MetroStage like you’ve never seen it before. Of course, you can expect their traditional eclectic season of varied shows, featuring local and regional actors, but you’ll also be treated to unique collaborations with other companies, including music, cabarets and dance.
These performances, both classic and contemporary, and sometimes premieres of original commissioned works, will debut in a new performance space. On the Venue’s main level, MetroStage welcomes guests to its lobby, walls adorned with local art by Barbara Januszkiewicz, floor-to-ceiling glass windows letting in natural light with views of Montgomery Park across the street.
Going down the main staircase you enter the theatre, a large space with high ceilings and 110 seats. Just as Griffin offers diversity with her productions, she says the theater design offers great flexibility with a variety of seating options including 66 theater seats and 44 coffee table seats facing a semi-push stage. raised. This will support a multitude of performances, from main stage shows, to cabarets and other musicals, to individual performances, dance, and more.
Griffin adds, “Once we open, I have so much exciting work to share with this community and beyond.”
People come from all over the ring road and beyond to watch MetroStage’s empowering performance, and all the while, they’re driving the economy. Griffin explains, “We’ve always had a following beyond the ring road, so we welcome people from all over the metro area; buses arrive from Richmond; people are descended from Annapolis; so I like to say that we are not only a cultural force, but an economic force for the city.
Of course, before a show, people like to dine or shop, which they can do in many local shops and restaurants in Alexandria. After a show, one might fancy a cocktail or a treat, which can be indulged in the local bars and bakeries.
You can also get your fill during the show with MetroStage’s revamped concessions. Griffin details, “We will have a nice concessions bar and each show will have a signature cocktail. It’s a little something else to enhance the overall experience.
“Theater is a catalyst for other economic endeavors,” Griffin reiterates, “and I firmly believe that we have always served that purpose as well as enriching the cultural life of the city.”
Alexandria would certainly not be the same without its arts and culture, and what is art without theatre. As MetroStage navigates this time of construction and pandemic, Griffin’s ideas are coming to fruition and big plans are coming to fruition. She can’t wait to show all theatre-goers, locals and tourists, what MetroStage is capable of.
As the pandemic persists, COVID-19 protocols will be implemented in the new MetroStage space. According to Grififn, vaccines will be required for entry, masks must be worn by staff and audience, and actors will wear their masks at all times off stage. “We will also have a sophisticated new air filtration system to ensure air quality and safety,” adds Griffin.
For more information on MetroStage, their construction, COVID-19 protocols, and the upcoming season, visit metrostage.org.