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|Carpenter Theater; Carpenter Center, Richmond CenterStage|
600 E. Grace St.|
|Reopened||September 12, 2009|
|Location||6th and Grace Sts., Richmond, Virginia|
|Area||1 acre (0.4 ha)|
|Architectural style||Spanish Colonial Revival|
|NRHP reference #|||
|Added to NRHP||November 20, 1979|
|Designated VLR||September 18, 1979|
Richmond CenterStage is a performing arts center in Richmond, Virginia that includes the Altria Theater and the theater formerly known as the Carpenter Theatre Center for the Performing Arts. The Carpenter Theatre was originally a Loew's Theatre movie palace developed by the Loew's Theatres company and designed by John Eberson. Construction of the building began in 1927 and its doors were opened in 1928. The Altria Theater was constructed a year before in 1926 and was originally a Shriners hall.
Still known to many Richmonders as the Carpenter Center, the main CenterStage structure occupies the 600 block of historic Grace Street, a one-way road traveling west through Richmond. It is surrounded by Broad Street to the north, Seventh Street to the east, Grace Street to the south and Sixth street to the west. It is located in the Grace Street Commercial Historic District. It is not located in a City of Richmond Local Old & Historic District. But does now fall within the new created Arts and Cultural District as designated by Richmond City Council.
The Altria Theater sits on North Laurel Street in the heart of Virginia Commonwealth University's urban campus. The marquee faces Monroe Park with West Main Street and North Cherry Street bordering the theater on the south and west, respectively.
As a prominent New York architect, John Eberson conceived a design for the Loew's Theatre Corporation influenced by both Moorish and Spanish baroque structures. According to architectural historian Calder Loth, "Loew's was considered the most up-to-date theater in the South when it opened on April 9, 1928." Eberson was famous for having invented the "atmospheric theatre" design in which the theater walls resembled an elegant villa or streetscape under a night sky. The Carpenter Theatre design evokes a Spanish setting with a faux sky ceiling containing stars and moving clouds.
The Altria Theater was constructed in 1926 to be used by the Shriners as the Acca Temple Shrine. The theater was designed in Moorish Revival style by Marcellus E. Wright Sr. in association with Charles M. Robinson and Charles Custer Robinson in 1925 and completed in 1926.
The facility and organization once known as the Carpenter Center for the Performing Arts merged with the Virginia Performing Arts Foundation in the early 2000s. After major fundraising and advocacy campaign, and a private-public partnership with the City of Richmond, the Thalhimers Department Store, adjacent to the Carpenter Center, was purchased as part of the strategic plan to create the then-envisioned performing arts center. Once construction was complete, the entire complex was renamed Richmond CenterStage and expanded to include the Altria Theater.
The center now contains five venues in two distinct locations. The Carpenter Theatre (named for the E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation) is the historic 1,800 seats proscenium theater mentioned above. Dorothy Pauley Square refers to the newer 4-story building attached to the Carpenter Theatre and contains 3 venues / areas: Libby S. Gottwald Playhouse, a 200-seat flexible playhouse; Rhythm Hall, a jazz / cabaret space; and, Showcase Gallery, a reception areas and gallery for the visual arts. The Altria Theater, a 3,600 seat performance hall, is the fifth venue, located a mile west of the Carpenter / Dorothy Pauley Square location.
The third and fourth floors of Dorothy Pauley Square contain office space currently occupied by CenterStage staff, as well as Richmond Symphony and Virginia Opera staffs. The third floor also holds the Genworth BrightLights Education Center, classroom and educational space used for CenterStage's and other arts groups' educational programming. The Digital Arts Learning Center is a state-of-the-art digital media center contained within the BrightLights space.
CenterStage officially opened to the public with a Grand Opening on September 12, 2009. This was after a large capital campaign, a controversial public-private partnership with the City of Richmond, and a decision to re-size the project from a much larger proposed complex. Additionally controversial is the organizational structure of the complex that has SMG Richmond, a for-profit corporation based out of Pennsylvania, operating the venues via a City-appointed Board of local executives.
CenterStage currently has nine Resident Companies who use CenterStage for performances and educational programming. African American Repertory Theatre, Elegba Folklore Society, Richmond Ballet, Richmond Jazz Society, Henley Street Theatre / Richmond Shakespeare, Richmond Symphony, SPARC (School of the Performing Arts in the Richmond Community), Virginia Repertory Theatre and Virginia Opera. The facility has the capacity to hold smaller groups for local and regional performances as well as very large audiences for national touring acts.
The Altria Theater is currently a very popular venue, hosting the Richmond Forum, the Broadway in Richmond Series and a number of other headliner musical and comedy acts. In 2012 Richmond City Council authorized an allocation of $14MM to contribute to the renovation and restoration of the Landmark. The complete project is a nearly $60MM renovation and should take approximately 3 years to complete.
Most recently, Richmond CenterStage celebrated its 2nd birthday with a Gala Celebration featuring Patti La Belle, and its 4th year with a gala featuring Emily Skinner in June 2013. Richmond CenterStage continues to pursue its mission to be a catalyst for the arts in Richmond and become part of the city's economic and cultural revitalization.