Proving you can’t keep a good theater building down, the former Playhouse on 25th Street in Charles Village should be opening next year in yet another incarnation.
To be called The Voxel, the 72-year-old building will serve both as a second headquarters for Figure 53 — a company where designers create software that controls lights, sound and video for live shows — and as a performance space primarily for live theater.
“We’ve been looking for a long time for a theater space we could use as a research and innovation hub,” Chris Ashworth, who founded Figure 53 in 2006, wrote in an email. “We were excited when the property right around the corner from our office became available.”
Figure 53’s current offices are in the 2400 block of Maryland Ave.
Ashworth said he hopes to have the building ready by summer or fall of 2019. “We are doing a complete renovation of the building to create a black box theater he in the old movie theater space, and a flexible lobby that can also host programming,” he wrote.
Figure 53 will use the space to develop software and teach customers how to use it, Ashworth said. In the evenings and on weekends, he hopes to bring in local theater companies to stage performances.
The building was most recently known as the Autograph Playhouse, home to performances by the Baltimore Rock Opera Society and other events.
Opened as the Homewood Theatre in May 1946, it was remodeled five years later and reopened as The Playhouse, with a seating capacity around 400. For years, it operated as one of the city’s art theaters, showing foreign films and other outside-the-mainstream fare. Along with the nearby 5-West and 7-East theaters on North Avenue (the former reopened last year as the Stavros Niarchos Foundation Parkway, the latter now a church), it made that area a place of pilgrimage for local movie lovers looking for offbeat fare.
The Playhouse closed in 1985; four years later, a church moved in, staying there until 1994. In the ensuing years, it operated as a movie theater devoted to African-American cinema, a showcase for Korean films and as a live theater known as the Paragon, later the Showtime.
Ashworth said he hasn’t decided yet whether to move all of Figure 53’s operations into The Voxel when it opens, or to continue operating out of both buildings.
“It’s nice that we have existing office space around the corner, though,” he wrote, “so I like to think of it as a tiny little Baltimore campus of two buildings we can work in.”