Artistic Director Tim Perrino realized recently that the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts was nearing its tenth anniversary as a west-side venue for live theatre, and rather than planning a celebration, he went looking for a new challenge. He has already shepherded the Cincinnati Young People’s Theatre program through three decades, and he has been managing the Showboat Majestic, the last working showboat on the Ohio River if not in the entire country, for twenty-two years now. He also received a Cincinnati Acclaim “Trailblazer Award” a few years ago, and no one in Cincinnati can match the trail he has blazed through local theatre.
Now he has found another trail to blaze: building a theatre from the ground up in the new entertainment district in East Price Hill’s Incline District. It seems that starting from scratch was the only big challenge left for Perrino, and he has big plans.
“We’ve been approached with a lot of crazy ideas about creating another theatre and we’ve looked at different areas of town. But my roots are in the west side.” In fact, when he was born his parents lived in a building just across the street from the planned site for the new theatre, near the Primavista restaurant and the Incline District Pub, which will open in October, at the northeast corner of Mt. Hope Drive and West Eighth Street, near Matson Place.
“It’s the next great neighborhood,” Perrino believes, and he wants theatre to be a part of it. The East Price Hill Improvement Association was enthusiastic when he approached them for support, and word of the planned theatre leaked out a little sooner than they might have preferred. But Perrino says they took the opportunity to get their plans out in the open earlier this summer rather than allowing a lot of speculation.
The plans call for a purpose-built building; Perrino says his organization has become expert in retrofitting buildings into theatres, so they knows what a theatre should have, and this new theatre will have it all, albeit in a small setting. The theatre will feature a 200 to 225 seat theatre (about half the size of the Covedale) and will operate year round. And it will be more eclectic in its offerings than either the Showboat or the Covedale. “A fun, varied slate of offerings,” is what Perrino described, with comedy nights, touring shows, summer series, special and one-off events, and concerts all using the space.
There is also a plan to provide children’s programming and outreach education in the arts to area youngsters. Oyler School, with a kindergarten through high school program, and Holy Family Elementary School, are both located nearby. “Part of our mission from Day 1 is to provide a continuum of theatrical activities for all ages,” Perrino says.
The timeline for the new theatre is fairly short; if all goes well, the new $3 million theatre will open in summer or fall of 2014. The funding for the theatre will be drawn from the capital stock of resources available to nonprofits in the area, including some grants from umbrella foundations and government-sponsored arts funding, as well as individual large donors and smaller patrons of the arts. “We’re thrilled with the response so far,” Perrino reports, and there is already funding in hand to begin predevelopment work and preliminary architectural plans.
Cincinnati Landmark Productions, the company that operates the Covedale Center for the Performing Arts and the Showboat Majestic, was the first organization to offer support for the new theatre project with funding and in-kind services; the board of directors voted recently to provide seed money for the project, and at least 10 percent of the funding will be in the form of donated in-kind services.
Enthusiasm for the project is growing, and Perrino is convinced the theatre will be built on schedule and within budget. “The great part about this is that it isn’t our first ride on the pony—we know how to start a theatre,” Perrino notes. So, in about two years’ time, a brand-new venue will open to anchor the new entertainment district—encouraging other development in the area—and you can bet that the curtain will go up right on time.