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Arts and Entertainment Friday, Jun. 24, 2022 3 months ago

Asolo Repertory Theatre opens expanded rehearsal space

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For years, Asolo Rep has longed to spread its wings and build a bigger rehearsal space. Finally, that day has arrived.
by: Spencer Fordin A+E Editor

Fourteen months ago, it was a patch of dirt. And today, it’s a world-class rehearsal facility that promises to transform the way the Asolo Repertory Theatre does business for decades into the future.

Asolo Rep celebrated on Thursday the birth of a new building at the Koski Production Center, a sprawling facility on Tallevast Road that will eventually allow multiple productions to rehearse at the same time.

Michael Donald Edwards, the theater’s producing artistic director since 2006, spoke to a group of executives and donors Thursday and thanked them for investing in the company’s future.

Michael Donald Edwards thanked donors and staff for their involvement in opening the new building at the Koski Production Center. (Photo: Spencer Fordin)

The building has 9,400 square feet of space, and Edwards told the crowd that it offers a rare example of permanence in a transitory industry.

“We make intense families. We rehearse, we give our heart’s blood to putting these shows on stage,” he said before the facility’s ceremonial ribbon-cutting. “When it's over, we dissipate, we disappear, we move on. We have to let go of those intense connections, go back to our regular lives. Until the next opportunity we have that we can come together as a family. … It’s rare in this business to feel that you've created something that's going to live way beyond you.”

The Asolo raised $13.5 million for the first phase of the project, which included funding for the purchase of the property and an endowment component. 

The project came in right on budget, and the Asolo expects the next phase of renovations to cost $7 million.

Edwards, who is prepping for his final season at the helm of Asolo Rep, said that the first show that will get to rehearse in the revamped Koski Production Center will be "Cabaret."

The company has had a facility on Tallevast Road for around a decade, but the new space has several advantages over the old one. The new space has ceilings taller than 20 feet high, which will allow the rehearsals to take place in front of a full set.

The facility will have lots of room for storage of sets and costumes, and it has a dedicated catering kitchen to support the use of the space as an event venue. There’s still another phase of construction that will round out the spaces at both buildings on the premises.

Asolo Rep leadership, campaign committee members and supporters "Cut the Ribbon," Asolo Rep style! (Courtesy photo: Cliff Roles.)

“There will be a second rehearsal studio next door, which you need for creating big musicals,” says Edwards. “You need to be able to do two things at the same time. It'll be able to do book scenes and music scenes and choreography, and then it'll be two active spaces at the same time. They have those complexes in New York; they’re very expensive to use.

"We're going to be one of the only places in the country where that is actually possible to do.”

Edwards lauded the construction company, Tandem Construction, and architecture firm, Sweet Sparkman, behind the project, and he said it was refreshing to work with companies who listened to what the artists wanted before building out the space.

Now, instead of struggling for room to rehearse all of its productions, Edwards says that Asolo Rep will become “a mega creative factory.” There’s room to dream of even bigger productions, and Edwards thanked everyone involved.

“Extraordinary creative things are going to happen in this room,” he said. “Really significant artistic achievement is going to be born here. Hopefully, all of us will be around to see it, but it’s going to happen continuously. The reputation of this theater is going to expand exponentially. Because you've invested in the product. You’ve invested in creating a product.”

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