Asolo Repertory Theater opens expanded rehearsal space | arts and entertainment

Fourteen months ago it was a pile of dirt. And today it’s a world-class rehearsal facility that promises to transform the way the Asolo Repertory Theater does business for decades to come.

Asolo Rep on Thursday celebrated 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, artistic director and producer of the theater since 2006, addressed a group of executives and donors on Thursday and thanked them for investing in the company’s future.

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

The building is 9,400 square feet in size and Edwards told the crowd it provided a rare example of permanence in a transient industry.

“We form intense families. We rehearse, we give our heart’s blood to put these shows on stage,” he said before the establishment’s inauguration ceremony. “When it’s over, we dissipate, we disappear, we move on. We must let go of these intense bonds, return to our usual lives. Until the next opportunity we have to get together as a family. … It’s rare in this business to feel that you’ve created something that will live on beyond you.

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

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

Edwards, who is gearing up for his final season as head of Asolo Rep, said the first show to rehearse at Koski’s new production facility will be “Cabaret.”

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

The facility will have plenty of space 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 is yet another phase of construction that will complete the spaces of the two buildings on the premises.

Asolo Rep leadership, campaign committee members and supporters “Cut the ribbon”, Asolo Rep style! (Courtesy of Cliff Roles.)

“There will be a second rehearsal studio next door, which you need to create great musicals,” says Edwards. “You have to be able to do two things at the same time. He will be able to do book scenes, musical scenes and choreographies, then they will be two active spaces at the same time. They have these complexes in New York; they are very expensive to use.

“We’re going to be one of the only places in the country where that’s actually possible.”

Edwards praised the construction company, Tandem Construction, and the architectural firm, Sweet Sparkman, behind the project, and he said it was refreshing to work with companies that listened to what artists wanted before build space.

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

“Amazing creative things are going to happen in this room,” he said. “Really significant artistic achievements are going to be born here. Hopefully we’ll all be there to see it, but it will continually happen. The reputation of this theater will grow exponentially. Because you have invested in the product. You have invested in creating a product.


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