Theater holds center stage in Lexington Park

With much ado, the curtain went up last spring


August 04, 2005|By Barbara Hall | Barbara Hall,SPECIAL TO THE SUN

It nearly didn't happen.

The Newtowne Players of Lexington Park thought time after time that they had a new theater. And time after time, their plans collapsed.

Be it an air-quality concern or objections from the Department of Public Works, the Players had to satisfy authorities before they could occupy the Three Notch Theatre, formerly home to the Lexington Park Memorial Library. Finally, last spring, with much ado, the lease was signed and the curtain went up.

Lexington Park, in St. Mary's County, has ebbed and flowed with the fortunes of nearby Patuxent Naval Air Station, but since the base's growth in 1994, things have been improving for the community.

Robin Finnacom is president and CEO of St. Mary's Community Development Corp. She calls the theater the keystone of the plan to "rebuild the heart and soul of this community."

The Three Notch Theatre is a cultural center with a rotating stage, an art gallery and a cafe. But getting it built wasn't easy.

The Players, formed in the winter of 2003, did their first few performances in a variety of venues - including a deli basement.

Many credit Wendy Heidrich for being what Player Kerry Robinson calls the "magic spark" behind the theater's success. It was, all agree, her leadership and the guiding hand of her husband, Mark, that gained Newtowne a permanent home.

Shortly after the group's lease of the old library building was approved by the Board of County Commissioners in November 2004, a nucleus of volunteers pitched in to clean, carpet, paint, design and build. Local merchants donated materials.

"It's a great avenue for people to get together," Mark Heidrich says. "We have a core group who do the bulk of the work."

"We had inspectors walking around the theater on opening night," Robinson says of the April production of Cheaters. "[Getting the theater open] was a big, drawn-out process."

Happily for the troupe, some 2,000 people attended the first two productions.

Wendy Heidrich says that much of the theater's progress has been rooted in education.

"A lot of people," she says, "didn't know what community theater was. They thought it was a firehouse and a lot of folding chairs."

Lilly and Dieter Heidrich, the Heidrichs' children, are among a team of children who work with the troupe. In fact, for a number of Players, the company is a family matter. The Heidrichs say they hope eventually to hold more programs and workshops for children as the theater continues to bloom.

"The Point" is at Three Notch Theatre, 21744 S. Coral Drive, Lexington Park, tomorrow-Aug. 14. Tickets are $10-$18. Call 301-737-5447.

Where to shop

Affordable Heirlooms offers quality antiques and collectibles. 21779 Tulagi Place, Lexington Park, 240-725-0028.

County Sports Apparel and Screen Printing sells a variety of wares, as its name implies. 21779-D Tulagi Place, Lexington Park, 301-863-8800.

The Oriental Market has a spread of exotic foodstuffs - Asian sauces, teas, high-grade imported rice and more. 20259 Point Lookout Road, Great Mills, 301-994-9444.

Where to eat

Linda's Cafe, Tulagi Place, Lexington Park, across from the theater. A family dinette, Linda's likes to say it serves "the best coffee in the Park." 301-862-3544.

St. James Bar & Grill is an informal eatery serving specials each day. 48579 Mattapany Road, Lexington Park, 301-737-0667.

Peking Restaurant's signature dish is Peking duck. 21775 Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, 301-863-6190.

The Roost is known for its military and historic decor, along with its crab soup and steak. 21736 Great Mills Road, Lexington Park, 301-863-5051.

Captain Pat's, off Three Notch Road, is a casual place serving hot dogs and seafood. 301-866-0000.

Lone Star Steak House serves its steaks in an old-time saloon atmosphere at 22035 Three Notch Road, Lexington Park, 301-863-7277.

Also of interest

Sotterley Plantation, Hollywood, along the Patuxent River. On the premises are formal gardens, a farm museum and a gift shop. 800-681-0850.

Patuxent River Naval Air Museum, Lexington Park. The exhibits run the gamut, from vintage photos to aircraft. 301-863-7418.

Getting there

From Baltimore, take Interstate 95 or Route 295 (Baltimore-Washington Parkway) to Interstate 495 (Washington Beltway) and follow it south and exit at Route 5 south toward Waldorf. Follow Route 5 into St. Mary's County. Go to Mechanicsville. There, Route 5 splits. Take Route 235 and follow it south to Lexington Park.

More information

Call 301-737-5447 to reach Three Notch Theatre or visit Or visit the St. Mary's County Chamber of Commerce at

For more regional trips, see Page 36.

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