“The life of the arts is far from an interruption or distraction in the life of a nation; it is close to the center of a nation’s purpose and is a test of the quality of a nation’s civilization.” – John F. Kennedy.
And so, after almost a half-century of progress in meeting that challenge, Theatre Arlington is advancing the quality of our city’s contribution to the nation’s civilization with a $3 million expansion in the heart of the city’s Cultural Arts District.
President Kennedy would salute the achievement and all that it means in realizing what he acknowledged as essential to American life.
When the work now underway is completed, the renovated theater will have an expanded lobby, new theater seating, a new stage with turntable, state-of-the-art lights, sound, and video projection, expanded wing space backstage, new dressing rooms and new classrooms for its educational programs.
Theatre Arlington’s Executive Producer, Steven Morris describes the purpose of the project, “As Arlington’s only live theater, 30,000 people from 3 to 103 years old attend shows and educational programming every season at Theatre Arlington – all in a building that has been adequate for many years but no longer enough to support us now or in the future.”
The results will enhance the patron experience and broaden the audience as Theatre Arlington maintains its major role as Arlington’s only live theater.
It all started in 1973 when a group of Arlington citizens met together in the Potluck Room of Miss Persis Dance Studio and decided to call themselves The Potluck Players. Their first production of I Do, I Do was performed at Arlington High School.
Morris, who has acted in or written more than 60 of the Theatre’s shows, continues, “Times were tough for this rag-tag troupe of theater gypsies, but with passion, energy and the ability not to say no, the group continued to perform anywhere they could find space.”
By 1981 they had acquired an old church on Division Street that provided a 134-seat theater and produced seven shows every season.
As a personal experience for our family, daughter Amy, in elementary school at the time, landed a small role in Evita staged there where she took her first steps toward a career as a producer in film making. Last year, one of her movies was recognized with ten Academy Award nominations.
Ten years later, under the leadership of Executive Director Penny Patrick, the team was able to acquire a hardware store building on Main Street in the heart of Downtown Arlington and opened as a 199-seat cabaret-style theater with a dynamite production of Pump Boys and Dinettes – one of my favorites. I still have the Pump Boys official uniform shirt the cast gave me as a tribute to my enthusiasm for the show.
A third-generation member of our family, granddaughter Ashley, also has her own history as a student in the theater’s education program that put her on stage for a couple years with some memorable performances.
Equity actor and exciting performer on stage, B. J. Cleveland became Artistic Director in 1994 when the facility was transformed with the Allan Saxe Mainstage providing traditional seating and now being renovated into a major upgrade for audiences with the work currently underway.
The excellent quality of the actors throughout the years has placed Arlington’s reputation among the top in the area’s opportunities for exciting live performances that have endured for five decades. What now lies ahead will advance that standing and provide our city with even more reasons to be proud of its place in the arts.
There’s lots more to learn about all that is taking place in the project including the 12 shows scheduled for the 2022 season and how you may become a contributing partner in the theater’s exciting future. Take a look at the website for all the details: theatrearlington.org.