The shows will go on for the Children’s Theatre of Charleston in a new, spacious workshop under construction on the West Side.
After spending nearly two years operating and rehearsing productions in separate and temporary quarters downtown, CTOC officials are developing a new, permanent home, at 115 Spring St. in Charleston (directly behind the Pennsylvania Avenue Donut Connection).
Among its many amenities, the new theater will contain a rehearsal hall, set and costume shops, a kitchen area and a study alcove within its open 7,000 square feet of space.
CTOC General Manager LeeAnne Rhenlander said building efforts began in earnest in mid-February.
“Right now, we’re still at the corner of Brooks Street and Kanawha Boulevard,” she explained. “Our set shop has been located in a warehouse on Morris Street.”
Rhenlander, who’s been with the CTOC for the past 14 years, said the hunt for a new headquarters has been underway for eight or nine years, after the previous site, a one-time bakery, began having ceiling issues. “We had to move the kids,” the Scott Depot resident said, “because we didn’t want to expose them to anything they shouldn’t be exposed to, like mold.
“We looked at a lot of warehouses, because we’ve been trying to find a space that we could put our set shop in and have a dock that we could drive set pieces in and have a space to have rehearsals in. It was hard finding something that has both.”
The new Spring Street location “fits all our needs,” Rhenlander said, “and it fits our budget — to find a space this big that we can afford to rent, because we’re a nonprofit.”
Financial support is critical to completing the second phase of the new, two-story facility. A funding goal of $100,000 has been established. A graphic on the CTOC website indicates that approximately half that amount has been raised to date.
“We’re looking at grants,” said Rhenlander. “It’s very competitive throughout the state; there’s not a lot of Capital Campaign grants that we have found.
“We’re also accepting private donations. Most of what we’ve raised are private donations from people who’ve heard of Children’s Theatre. We’ve sent out campaign letters, and we’re taking it to social media and everywhere else right now.”
Corporate sponsors are also being sought, she said. “We’re going to name certain parts of the building, so there are different levels, like they could have a rehearsal hall named after them. We’ll also have a donor wall downstairs that will list all of the different categories of donors.
“If they’re a business, and it’s something that we need, like for our kitchen, if a home improvement store wanted to donate cupboards or counters, we’re open to anything like that,” Rhenlander said.
Donations can be made and more information about naming rights opportunities and the theater group’s mission and activities can be gleaned at ctoc.org.
CTOC is open to all West Virginia children, regardless of age, race, religion or nationality, as long as they meet the requirement of attendance. The CTOC began in May 1932 when a teacher, Sara Spencer, launched a theater group as an outgrowth of her drama class. The group became incorporated and named the Children’s Theatre of Charleston in 1945.
On Feb. 25, the CTOC performed the stage show “Alice in Wonderland” at the Clay Center for the Arts and Sciences, in collaboration with the West Virginia Youth Symphony Orchestra, Appalachian Children’s Chorus and the River City Youth Ballet Ensemble. Its remaining 2020 and early 2021 performance season will include “Mary Poppins Jr.” in early April, a fall production of “Sherlock Holmes and the First Baker Street Irregulars,” “Mr. Scrooge” in December and a production of “Disney’s Beauty and the Beast Jr.” in March 2021.
Rhenlander said they hope to have the new workshop completed by May and available for auditions in August for their fall production.