$3 Million & Change for Shakespeare

By Jacqueline Trescott
Washington Post Staff Writer
Tuesday, July 31, 2007

As it enters the countdown phase for opening its second stage, the Shakespeare Theatre Company has raised $68.8 million, thanks to two new gifts totaling $3 million.

The award-winning company has received a $2 million gift from local arts philanthropists Robert and Arlene Kogod, the theater will announce tomorrow. In addition, the Kresge Foundation is giving the Shakespeare Theatre a $1 million challenge grant. The company expects to reach its $89 million goal next year.

On Oct. 1, the Shakespeare will open the Harman Center for the Arts, comprising Harman Hall, a 775-seat theater at Sixth and F streets NW, and the existing 451-seat Lansburgh Theatre at Seventh and E streets NW. The Harman will enable the company to expand its season from five to eight productions and present plays at the new location as well as at the Lansburgh, its home since 1992.

The gifts are an important catalyst, said Landon V. Butler, chairman of the theater's board. "They are donors that other people watch. The theater is now a place that people can kick and see. . . . This is going to be a major addition."

The Kogod gift, said the theater's artistic director, Michael Kahn, "shows the rest of the community how important the arts community is, and the Kresge is confirmation from a major foundation that the center is important to helping build and create a broad arts community." The Kresge gift is contingent upon the theater reaching a fundraising benchmark by August 2008. Alice Carle, a Kresge program officer, said the gift was made because of the theater's artistic track record and its work to educate professionals and "school-age youth."

The Harman will also host performances by other groups. The opening season will include appearances by the Washington Ballet, Washington Bach Consort, CityDance Ensemble, Dance Place and the Summer Opera Theatre Company. The hall will also be booked by the Washington Performing Arts Society and the Capital Fringe Festival. Nicholas T. Goldsborough, the Shakespeare Theatre Company's managing director, said he has booked 180 events through July next year.

The Shakespeare has been a leader reviving the surrounding Penn Quarter and Gallery Place neighborhoods. Galleries, museums, restaurants and condominiums have engulfed the area, creating an entertainment destination. "We were given a certain amount of credit for helping to revitalize downtown. Since I didn't come until 1986, I wasn't aware of the fear people had of downtown. It didn't occur to me that this was a pioneering thing," said Kahn.

The lineup for this season's opening night gala includes ballet dancers Nina Ananiashvili and Julio Bocca, the Jazz at Lincoln Center Orchestra with Wynton Marsalis, actress Patti LuPone, violinist Anne-Sophie Mutter and actors Harry Hamlin, Stacy Keach, Kelly McGillis and Avery Brooks.

Goldsborough said the event is expected to raise $2 million and that the company decided to continue with fundraising and not take the typical break as the building opens to "nail down the costs right now" so the hall can be finished on budget.

It is also designing free lunchtime programming, with productions and lectures presented by the Shakespeare Theatre as well as other arts groups. These "Happenings at the Harman" will take place every Wednesday. Theater officials said they would sponsor an open house for the neighborhood prior to the ticketed gala.

© 2007 The Washington Post Company