The Studio Acting Conservatory announced Monday that it has bought an unoccupied church in Columbia Heights, giving the organization a place to land after it reluctantly leaves the troupe it birthed, Studio Theatre.
The split between the conservatory and the theater was first reported in February, with retired Studio founding artistic director Joy Zinoman saying, “I’m not happy about it.” The theater, led by artistic director David Muse in the nine seasons since Zinoman’s departure, has evolving plans for the building and its four stages that do not include the conservatory.
On Monday, Zinoman sounded more upbeat.
“We bought it Friday night!” she said of the 6,000-square-foot “funky little church” at 3423 Holmead Pl. NW.
The church, built in the 1980s and “not distinguished architecturally,” Zinoman says, was purchased for $2.2 million, thanks to a lead gift of $1.5 million from Dan and Gloria Logan. In recent years it has been a community center, and it was sold to a private individual a year ago. Renovations won’t be completed until sometime next year, so in the meantime, the conservatory will rent space from the D.C. government in the former Garnet-Patterson Middle School, near 10th and U streets NW. The conservatory’s last day at Studio Theatre is Aug. 4.
The acting conservatory was founded in 1975. Zinoman created Studio Theatre in 1978, gradually moving it into the three-floor space it now occupies at 14th and P streets NW. The conservatory has 600 student slots annually, teaching acting at all levels. Zinoman figures it will take $600,000 a year to continue running the school, and she is banking on donors who supported educational programs at Studio to continue their support.
Debra Booth, Studio’s director of design, is designing the new spaces for the two floors of the church. A completion date is not set, but Zinoman is prepared for spring 2020 classes to continue in the transitional space at Garnet-Patterson, if necessary.
“Compared to the last 10 months, which have been brutal, when we had no place to go and we had no money and no time — that’s been extremely difficult,” said Zinoman, who acknowledged that she was not sure she wanted to carry on with the conservatory until she consulted with its 20 teachers. “Now, the three things I felt responsible for — raising money, finding a temporary space and a potentially beautiful permanent home — have been achieved. Now it’s just about execution.”