A Firehouse Theater?
A historic building in downtown Blowing Rock might become the
new home for Ensemble Stage productions.
Blowing Rock’s old fire station, located at the corner of Park Avenue and Wallingford Street, is being considered by the town and Ensemble Stage for a possible new 124-seat auditorium.
Gary Smith, artistic director of Ensemble Stage, presented his proposal to the Blowing Rock Town Council Tuesday evening.
“For the past five years, we’ve presented our productions at the Blowing Rock School Auditorium,” Smith said. “But because we have to share the auditorium with the school and other groups, it has a number of issues that make it hard for us. For instance, after I leave here tonight, I’ve got to go the auditorium and begin building the set for our Christmas show, which opens on Friday night. Ordinarily, building a set for a show like that takes about 50 hours, but I could not begin until tonight, because the school is using the auditorium tonight for its Christmas concert.”
According to Smith, the previous professional theater company in town, the Blowing Rock Stage Company, had exclusive use of the school’s auditorium, but Ensemble Stage has to share it with Mountain Home Music and other groups.
“It limits what we can do,” Smith said. “If we had our own venue, we could grow and expand, and it would help bring in people and increase revenue to the town.”
Smith also said that Ensemble Stage’s current situation leads to a lot of red tape whenever the company wants to make improvements to the auditorium.
“We have to get approval from the Watauga County Board of Education to put a fresh coat of paint on a wall,” he said. “The auditorium also has some flooding issues.”
During Smith’s presentation before the council, a speaker from the floor said that Ensemble Stage’s anti-bullying stage show was but one example of how the company gives back to the community.
“That’s the most important thing about being part of the Blowing Rock community,” Smith said. “After our anti-bullying show, I had a mother tell me that one of our young actors was her daughter, and that after the show, she had more confidence and began to speak up in her Girl Scout troop.”
During the meeting, it was noted that an architect had volunteered to donate his services to determine what the firehouse building needed to bring it up to code.
The Blowing Rock Town Council voted unanimously to approve a motion to go forward in a partnership with Ensemble Stage, regarding the building, enabling both groups to pursue grant money for the project.
If converted into a theater, the building would also be available for use by Blowing Rock Parks and Recreation, the farmers’ market and other groups.
As proposed, it would include a 124-seat theater, lobby, stage and backstage areas.
For more information on Ensemble Stage, visit http://www.ensemblestage.com.