Opening celebration set for Rouse performing arts theater

February 05, 1997|By Erin Texeira | Erin Texeira,SUN STAFF

A new high-tech performing arts center in Columbia's Wilde Lake village will open soon as the largest professional theater between Baltimore and Washington.

The first performance at the Jim Rouse Theatre for the Performing Arts -- on the campus of Wilde Lake High School -- will take place during its opening celebration Feb. 22. The Columbia Pro Cantare Orchestra and Momix, a dance troupe from New York, will perform.

"There are not a lot of high schools in the country, and none in this this region, that have facilities like this," said Mary Toth, director of the Howard County Arts Council.

The nonprofit theater was built for $1.2 million as part of the rebuilding of most of Wilde Lake High School that began in September of 1994 and ended last August.

If a new theater had been built from scratch, it would have cost about $12 million, according to Jessie Oliver of Roger Morgan Studio of New York City, one of the project's builders.

Construction money was provided through state and county capital grants, Jim and Patty Rouse, the Columbia Foundation, the Columbia Association, the Rouse Co. and a collection of more than two dozen local businesses, Toth said.

The National Endowment of the Arts awarded a $75,000 grant to bring seven artists-in-residence into county schools and nonprofit organization centers in conjunction with the center, she said.

The principal of Wilde Lake High, a local business leader and representatives from the county Education Department, government and Arts Council will form a management committee, said Earl Armiger, the business leader.

Students -- who started using the building when it opened in August -- will have priority for scheduling rehearsal and performance dates, but theater space also will be set aside for local nonprofit arts groups and for-profit professional performers, said Armiger, a real estate developer who solicited money from businesses to build the center.

"Wilde Lake teaching activities will come first," he said. "This is a first-class theatrical facility, a cutting edge facility."

The 750-seat theater has a 40-square-foot stage, a 32-channel sound system and professional lighting.

At the opening ceremony, the Columbia Pro Cantare Orchestra will perform a piece called "I Build A House," written by Tom Benjamin of Columbia to honor Jim Rouse, Columbia's founder.

In the weeks after the grand opening, four local music and dance groups will play performance dates at the center. Part of the Columbia Festival for the Arts will take place there in June.

Pub Date: 2/05/97

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