Playmakers Theatre to reopen

CPA refurbishes historic venue

Correction: Due to a reporting error, an earlier version of this story incorrectly named the managing organization and the the source of funding for the refurbishment project. The Office of the Executive Director for the Arts is managing the project and has provided $100,000 toward the project. The Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost provided the other $100,000. The Daily Tar Heel apologizes for this error.

After lying dormant for four years awaiting interior renovations, Historic Playmakers Theatre is filled with drills and sawdust.

The Office of the Executive Director for the Arts is working to make the National Historic Landmark usable by mid-to late-fall 2010.

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“The primary goal is to get it open and used by student groups, college departments and the campus,” said Mike Johnson, director of operations for the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts.

Half of the budget was provided by the Office of the Executive Director for the Arts, which gets support from University funding, ticket sales revenue and private donations.

The other $100,000 came from by the Office of the Executive Vice Chancellor and Provost.

The house curtain, aisle carpets and audience seating will all be replaced after being left to mold when renovations were put off.

“It is a building with really good bones,” said Kara Larson, director of marketing and public relations for the Office of Executive Director for the Arts. “It doesn’t need renovation from a structural perspective.”

Originally funded by the Carolina First Campaign, the renovations were planned to occur in two phases.

Phase one, a sprucing up and new paint job of the theater’s exterior, was completed a few years ago.

But phase two — a total remodeling of the interior — has been on hold since the 2008-09 budget cuts.

Refurbishing the space is not a part of the original phase two plans.

“I would call it a usability upgrade,” Larson said.

The building’s antique chandeliers and the aged iron-legs of the aisle seats bearing the initials “CP” will be left untouched to preserve the building’s historical significance and ambience.

“CP” are the initials for the Carolina Playmakers, the predecessor company of the contemporary Playmakers Repertory Company.

Founded in 1918 by professor Fredrick Koch, the Carolina Playmakers inherited what is now Playmakers Theatre in 1925, converting the former law school into an arena fit for drama.

“It has a history of playmaking, making a lot of plays at Carolina,” McKay Coble, a scene and costume designer in the PlayMakers Repertory Company, said of the theater.

“It has a lot of memories for a lot of people.”

Completed in 1851, the building acted as a ballroom, library and even a stable for Civil War Gen. William Sherman’s cavalry before it became a theater.

Now with another performance space about to open, UNC campus groups are chomping at the bit to reserve the venue.

“It gives a chance for a much wider variety of shows,” said Elissa Rumer, executive business director of Pauper Players, a student musical theater company.

William Reid, a 2009 graduate, preformed in the theatre before its closure in 2006.

“As a historical landmark, it has such an awesome feeling just being in there,” Reid said.

“You feel a sort of importance, knowing how many performers were on that very same stage.”

Contact the Arts Editor at arts.dth@gmail.com.

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