NEW ALBANY — Promoting the arts and historic preservation, TheatreWorks of Southern Indiana is moving into permanent digs in the 1837 Indiana State Bank Building — often called the Parthenon building.
After months of renovation by TheatreWorks and building owner Steve Resch, the facility has been transformed into a community arts center and performance venue and everyone is invited to an Open House Saturday, May 13 from 3 to 7 p.m.
Guests can tour the building, purchase season tickets, enjoy light appetizers and live music, schedule an event of their own, and meet staff and board members.
The venue is a stone’s throw from the Farmers Market and a dozen or more local eateries, and several are providing appetizers for the open house.
“One of the reasons we’re doing this is the hope that our business will bring increased traffic to these other businesses,” said Jason Roseberry, executive director of TheatreWorks.
The project offers an entertainment attraction after filling your belly at one of New Albany’s many restaurants.
“The arts are real economic drivers. When people go to an arts event it really helps everybody around, restaurants and shops,” said Artistic Director Chris Bundy. “More than anything, there needs to be more nighttime activity downtown. We’ve got all these restaurants, but after you eat there’s nothing to do.”
Neil Simon’s comedy “Rumors” opens the TheatreWorks season June 1. “Big River: The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn,” “Proof,” “An Old-Fashioned Christmas,” “Moon Over Buffalo,” and “Titanic the Musical” round it out.
TheatreWorks launched in 2016 when Bundy teamed up with Roseberry, producing Neil Simon’s “Fools” at the Mitchell Opera House. Other shows were staged at Floyd Central and New Albany High School.
Bundy is well known among local theater buffs as the former theater director at Floyd Central High School, where he worked for 15 years, although his education career spans 39. He founded and served as artistic director of the Indiana State Parks’ Spring Mill Theatre for 14 years and has directed for a number of community theaters.
Roseberry is an alumnus of the Actors Theatre of Louisville Acting Apprentice program, former co-artistic director of the Kandel Theatre Company, and past director at Silver Creek High School.
“Fifteen years ago we tried to do this exact same thing with the Kandel Theatre Company,” Roseberry said. “We got some decent crowds going, but the time just wasn’t right. It’s exciting to see how much the environment has changed downtown in 15 years.”
New Albany City Council member David Barksdale attended one of TheatreWorks productions, learned that they were looking for a home and immediately started working on the problem.
“We had such a nice reception to those performances. The momentum got started as these conversations started going. We just ran alongside it,” said Roseberry.
As vice-president of the New Albany Redevelopment Commission and a longtime champion of historic preservation and renovation Barksdale was enthusiastic about the project.
He ultimately connected them with Resch, who is responsible for rehabilitating 17 structures in downtown New Albany, including those that house Wicks, The Exchange Pub + Kitchen, and TheatreWorks’ neighbor, Gospel Bird.
“Steve Resch has been wonderful to work with,” Roseberry said. “He was waiting for the right group that he felt would fit the building and not want to come in and make big changes.”
“I’m a complete history buff,” said Bundy. “When this worked out, it was just a dream come true. It’s a wonderful, multifunctional facility, but most importantly it’s a historic facility.”
Season ticket presales have been strong and community curiosity about the project has been growing.
“The interest has been amazing,” said Bundy. “When I’m in there working I almost always have someone with their nose pressed against the glass looking in.
On the first floor is the Main Stage Theatre. “Naming rights are still available,” joked Roseberry. The space features a permanent stage with seating to accommodate 92 in traditional theater seating, fewer in dinner theater or cabaret setups.
The smallness of the space “is part of the fun for us,” Roseberry said. “You look at New York and Chicago and they’ve got these storefront theaters that do fantastic things in small spaces.”
“It’s a neat challenge,” agreed Bundy. “We wanted to be intimate. I enjoy adapting things to small spaces.”
The second floor’s domed room, the Rose Garden Ballroom, is a flexible space that can host artistic performances and events such as parties, receptions, and meetings.
Roseberry and Bundy envision a full season of plays, musicals, and cabarets from TheatreWorks in addition to productions staged by other groups using the space, along with classes in acting, singing, dancing, art, and more, year round.
“There’s a reason we’re calling it a community arts center,” Roseberry said. “We’d love to have other arts groups, theater companies, whatever, come in and use this space.”