The following article was written by Anitra Washington, a 2015 graduate of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law. While in law school, she served as the captain of the University of Maryland Black Law Student Association Thurgood Marshall Mock Trial Team. Anitra is also the 2015 recipient of the University of Maryland Litigation and Advocacy Award. This summer she is studying for the Maryland Bar examination and acting as a co-editor of Ground Rules.
On April 1, 2015, the Real Property Section hosted an event to learn about the recent relocation of the Everyman Theatre to its space at 513 W. Fayette Street. Act One of the event included a study in the history and a tour of the renovated building, led by Vincent Lancisi, the Everyman’s Founding Artistic Director. Like most buildings in Baltimore City, 513 W. Fayette Street has an impressive resume and has played many roles over time. In 1910, this building opened its doors as the Empire with vaudeville performances and hosting a vast spectrum of performances from Yiddish theatre to bingo parties. In 1937, the Empire transformed into the Palace, a venue for burlesque performances. The public opposed the burlesque productions as indecent, and the Palace eventually closed its doors to appease the public. Following this, the building took a break from the entertainment industry to take on a whole identity as a parking garage until staging a comeback in 1947 as a 1,550 seat movie theatre called the Town Theatre. The Town Theatre hosted the premiere of the classic film “It’s a Wonderful Life” starring Jimmy Stewart and directed Frank Capra. Despite a relatively long life, the Town Theatre was forced to close its doors once again in 1990. In 2006, Bank of America and the Harold A. Dawson Trust donated this historical and prestigious theatre to the Everyman Theatre.
This iteration of the theater was designed for function, not just fashion. The renovation to 513 W. Fayette St. included creating window openings that had been previously blocked out during the location’s movie-theater era. The backstage area that is located on the first floor was designed with prop development and construction in mind and provides room for stage hands to build props as well as an elevator lift. Above the theatre is a rehearsal space where a second theater is proposed. Between this rehearsal space and the offices that house the marketing team is a lunch room that promotes interaction between the marketing team and actors. There are also rooms for hosting community classes in dance, improve and acting. Everyman’s director explained to the audience how its actors are the foundation of the theatre and are featured in the lighting, the walls, and the window panes. Mr. Lancisi also revealed how relationships with actors are developed and managed, and responding to audience questions, discussed the contractual aspects of that relationship, disclosing that while those agreements may be oral and an actor will be given the freedom to manage his or her own career, one breach is likely to be an actor’s last with the Everyman.
Act Two of the event told the story behind Everyman’s relocation to 513 W. Fayette Street. Diane Cho, the architect responsible for the building’s rehabilitation, revealed a touching moment when the “E” from the Empire was rediscovered and repurposed for the Everyman, thus allowing Everyman to pay homage to the location’s history. Steve Sharkey of DLA Piper explained to the audience how the stars of the renovation were the Federal and State historic tax credits and new market tax credits that allowed Everyman to finance over $9 million to complete the project, providing investors with an incentive for rehabilitating and re-using historic buildings in the form of credits on qualified rehabilitation expenditures. To earn the historic tax credits, Everyman had to rehabilitate 513 W. Fayette St. in accordance with the requirements of both the Federal Government and Maryland. To facilitate compliance with these regulations, the Everyman hired Diane Cho who is experienced in the rehabilitation of historic properties.
Act Three of the event included a performance of Ghosts by Henrik Ibsen. After touring the backstage and learning about the rehabilitation of the theater with tax credit financing, those in attendance were able to developer a deeper respect for the whole production – from location to staging to performance. This is just a snippet of what the Real Property Section learned at the Theatre Night Event on April 1, 2015. Please look out for opportunities to tour another theater with the Real Property Section coming up later this year.