04/05/06 — Arts groups say all they want is place in county to perform

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Arts groups say all they want is place in county to perform

By Winkie Lee
Published in News on April 5, 2006 1:57 PM

As discussions continue about the Paramount Theater, local art groups are waiting to see what will happen.

The ideal, some say, would be to rebuild the Paramount. But, if that can't happen, having a performing arts center elsewhere in the city would be better than having nothing.

A performing arts center is needed as soon as possible because the concert, drama and ballet organizations have had difficulty finding places to go, said Alice Strickland, executive director of the Arts Council of Wayne County.

The groups "were hoping that the inconvenience of not having the Paramount and having to find other places would be a temporary situation," she said. "Now it looks like it will be prolonged."

The lack of a performing arts center is being felt, others said.

"I think Goldsboro sees that we are still having our plays and dance recitals and still going on with what we are trying to do," said Sandra Evans, president of Center Stage Theater.

But, she added, "I don't think anyone realizes how hard it is to keep going.

"Some people are having to take their (performances) outside of the community. That's one thing we don't want to do because we have older patrons who don't want to travel that far."

When the Paramount burned down, the Wayne County Chapter of the North Carolina Symphony moved its concert to Dillard School. The result was lower ticket sales, said Marilyn Bateman, symphony president.

"People don't feel comfortable going to a school auditorium," she said. "Maybe they don't want to. School auditoriums are great, but they're for schoolchildren."

The move, and the resulting drop in sales, affected the chapter's "bottom line," she added. "We don't have the money to pay the Symphony for the concert we had this year."

"What we would love to have is a theater space comparable to what we had, with dressing rooms and a good seating arrangement," says Peggy Wingate, artistic director of the Goldsboro Ballet.

She said the dream would be to have a 1,000-seat theater, but 300 to 500 seats would be fine if the theater size could be increased later.

Mrs. Wingate would like to see the Paramount facade kept, and the theater rebuilt. But, if that were not to happen, she would like to see a new place built downtown.

"My thought is that the theater would be a wonderful asset to keep right downtown," she said.

Stagestruck: The Young People's Own Theatre would also like to see the Paramount rebuilt, in part due to the downtown location.

Stagestruck president Varda Giordano said the organization believes having a performing arts theater helps the downtown businesses and restaurants.

In addition, Stagestruck enjoyed being so close to the theater. Its building was physically attached, making it possible for the children to move freely between the warehouse and theater.

The young people's theater's intention has been to locate as close to the Paramount as possible if it is rebuilt.

Whether this happens or not, it plans to continue its mission of providing children's theater. Stagestruck has been having its premiere productions at Wayne Community College and will hold its summer shows at Goldsboro High School.

"I think we would like to see the Paramount rebuilt because, for a long time, that's been sort of our home," Mrs. Evans said. "When we lost it a year ago, it was like we lost a part of ourselves."

If there can be no Paramount, "the city really should try to focus on trying to prepare some kind of place for the performing arts to have somewhere to perform and rehearse," she said.

Mrs. Bateman said the performing arts center should have 800 to 1,200 seats and that people should consider it worth the money.

It should have a large stage, a practice stage and be located where the Paramount is, "using the original face if possible or using some part of that front" so money given for historic preservation can be acquired.

"This is an opportunity in Wayne County to make Goldsboro a destination for the performing arts," she said. "Right now, North Carolina is growing and people are looking at North Carolina as a destination to retire to. They're looking for communities that are small and that have a wide variety of things to do. It would be very wise of the City Council, the county commissioners and the state legislators to put some funds in our smaller towns for the performing arts."

The arts draw in tourism and new residents, and expand the tax base, she said.

In addition, as Goldsboro's population ages, residents aren't going to want to drive as far to see a play, hear the symphony, see a pageant a grandchild might be in or go to a country music show.

"I think floating a bond and paying it over 20 to 30 years makes sense," she said. "It will be expensive any way we do it. Anything you do that is worth doing is going to cost some money."

Mrs. Bateman said there are "some really wonderful builders here in Wayne County" and that getting them involved might lower the cost. In addition, hiring them would be supporting local companies.

Some of the organizations would be willing to help, their representatives say.

"We're willing to do whatever is needed," Mrs. Evans said.

She said Center Stage is getting ready to establish an outreach program that would provide entertainment for clubs and entertainment and education for the schools. She said volunteers could help with a fund-raiser.

Mrs. Wingate said the Goldsboro Ballet performed at the first fund-raiser held during De-Rail-A-Bration for the renovation of the Paramount. Although it has to work on fund-raisers to cover its own productions, she said the Goldsboro Ballet would be willing to do what it could to assist with the next Paramount effort.

Representatives of Stagestruck have met with City Manager Joe Huffman and Mayor Al King about the Paramount and have made friends downtown who know the organization wants downtown to thrive, Mrs. Giordano said.

Mrs. Bateman, Mrs. Wingate and Mrs. Strickland all said they would be happy to have representatives serve on the committee that is considering what to do about a performing arts center. These groups could provide people who know what the performing arts' needs are and who have been in a number of performing art centers.