The Montgomery County Council unanimously approved of $82,500 for construction of a 20-seat theater in the Bushey Drive Elementary School, 12210 Bushey Dr. Silver Spring.
The funds will supplement a previous appropriate of $88,000 authorized for fiscal year 1978, bringing to $170,500 the amount approved by the council for a theater in the school.
The Round House Theater, as that facility will be called will be used by the Street 70 Theater, the performing arts [WORD ILLEGIBLE] of the Montgomery County [WORD ILLEGIBLE] department.
Amount those testify in support of emergency funding were state Sen. Charles Gilchrist (D-17th District) and Ann Wilson, president of the Montgomery Council Arts Council.
The only objections to the funding came from Sidney Levine, chairman of the board of directors of Silver Spring Stage. Levine contended that it was wrong to use public funds to subsidize a professional enterprise such as Street 70. Rcihard Baldau, president of Maryland Theater Association, expressed concern that the funds would aid only one of 20 theater groups in the county and urged the council not to consider the Street 70 theater a substitute for a theater facility in a future arts center.
In 1976, when Bushey School was declared surplus, the council transferred it to the recreation department. According to county council president Elizabeth Scull, there was much discusision at the time about future use of the school.
"To pull otu an elementary school is a risky thing to do, especially in neighborhoods where they (schools) are the unifying force," said Scull. "It is important to replace them with something that is also a unifying force."
Last January, the recreation department requested an appropriation of $88,000 for design and initial construction of the Round House Theater. When the appropriation was granted, members architect from the Maryland National-Capital Park and Planning Commission went to work an architectural plans.
Substantial modifications were needed to meet national and local safety and building codes. Design requirements also eliminated using any Street 70 staff in the construction. Volunteer labor had been suggested as a means of keeping costs down.
Construction bids were accepted in November. When the bids were opened on Dec. 7, there was one for $162.50 from Jessie Dustin & Son and another for $242.000 from the Alton Eagineer Co.
With a 21-day option on he lower bid and only $88.000 in appropriated funds the recreation department appealed to the county council for help. In a Dec. 16 memo to Scull, recreation department director Neil Ossthun recommended accepting the lower bid and seeking an additional appropriation of $82,500, which included a $7,000 contingency fund. About $1,000 of the original $88.000 has been spent for initial design work.
Warning of inflation and the disruption of the Street 70 performance schedule if the project was delayed and funded in stages, Ossthun urged immediate financing of the complete facility.
Even with the emergency appropriation. Street 70 intends to seek an additional $70,000 in donations over the next four years for additional items such as constumes, set construction equipment, a sound system and stage curtains, Ossthun said.
At its Dec. 21 meeting, the council heard testimony from members of Street 70- and set the hearing this week.
"This is one of the kinds of activities we want to provide youngsters in the county," said Scull. "There are lots of youngsters with time on their hands and lots of working mothers. We want to provide these youngsters wholesome activities and this is one of them. It has been successful for those participating."
The Street 70 Theater is funded by the county but, according to Ossthun, about 60 per cent of the money is returned to the county throught box office receipts, class registrations and other methods. In addition to its performing season. Street 70 teaches and demonstrates theater arts throughout the county.
With no home of its own. Street 70 has been obliged to seek rehearsal and performance space wherever it could be found, according to producing director June Allen. For its previous season the professional company used the Rockville Civic Center. However, said Allen, in anticipation of the move to the Round House Theater, Street 70 altered its contrast with the Rockville Civic Center for the 1977-78 season.
Changes in the Round House Theater construction plan left Street 70 with no place to go and forced the company to reschedule its first play in the new theater from October 1977 to May 1978, according to Allen. The number of plays in the 1977-78 season was reduced from seven to four.
Artistic director Jerry Whiddon has been with the Street 70 company since its formation. He spoke of rehearsing in elevators and performing in library conference rooms.
"We haven't been able to be identified with a physical plant," said Whiddon. "Having a theater means having a physical identity. It also means being able to take greater risks for ourselves and for the community. With the continuum a place supplies. I can see a much more dynamic relationship with the audience."