Walnut Street Theatre Expands with Scenic and Properties Shop

Walnut Street Theatre, America's oldest theatre, has announced it has acquired 3340 Frankford Avenue in the Port Richmond section of Northeast Philadelphia. This property will serve as its expanded Scenic and Properties Shop and in the future the Walnut plans to make it a production center to serve the greater Philadelphia performing arts community.

Since President and Producing Artistic Director Bernard Havard joined the Theatre in 1982, the Walnut Street Theatre has operated as a successful not-for-profit, self-producing Theatre Company. Local carpenters, scenic artists and props craftspeople employed by the Walnut are responsible for building the exceptional productions that audiences see exclusively on the Walnut's stage. It is important to Havard to hire local artists first, both on stage and behind-the-scenes.

The purchase of this 85,000 square foot property and building gives the Walnut's Scene Shop a permanent place to settle and expand. The purchase of the property and funds for major capital improvements were allocated from surplus funds from the Theatre's annual operations.

The Theatre has been sharing its vast resources with other theatre companies for years and plans to expand its efforts to benefit even more of the performing arts community. Havard noted, "It has always been my hope that a centralized properties storage and registry be created to offer the non-profit arts community of Philadelphia an efficient, cost effective system to share resources among the community. We are fortunate to now have the space to move forward with this idea, as well as assisting companies with scenery construction. We look forward to the possible future collaborations this additional space creates within the local artistic community."

The Walnut will be reaching out to non-profit performing arts organizations in Philadelphia to discuss subsidized storage space, as well as dreams of a centralized stage properties collection and set construction opportunities.

The Walnut's original Scene Shop was leased in what was once horse stables at 953 North Front Street, from 1984 to 1996. It then moved to the Frankford Arsenal. The Theatre leased space there from 1996 to 2007, until forced out during a development project. The Shop relocated to its current location in Northeast Philadelphia, where 35,000 square feet of space has been leased since 2007.

Chaired by Richard A. Mitchell, the Property Development Committee of the Walnut's Board of Trustees oversaw the acquisition.

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