Curtain set to go up in fall at new Arundel cultural site; Leisure: Local support has been pivotal in the building of the $34 million Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts.; Howard Live


Soon, a large aluminum sign will loom about 8 feet above the rooftop of the theater building for Chesapeake Center for the Creative Arts, under construction.

The illuminated sign, which will be visible from Ritchie Highway, will beckon audiences to the performing arts center on Hammonds Lane in Brooklyn Park, scheduled to open in late fall.

The center will occupy the ends of the huge multipurpose building that was once Brooklyn Park High School. After renovations and construction, it will also house Brooklyn Park Middle School, which will be finished by midsummer, officials say.

The arts center will offer two theaters plus offices, galleries, dance and ceramic studios, shops and workrooms, and areas for set construction and storage.

The larger theater will accommodate 850. The theater will have expansive lighting and a modern sound system, each operated from its own control room.

A catwalk will give overhead access to lights and microphones and will permit more flexible sound and light arrangements. The system is so extensive that a smaller back-up system will also be available for less demanding theater productions.

Hearing-impaired audience members also have been considered, with the addition of an infrared system in the $97,000 sound installation. The infrared system is to be used to broadcast directly to hearing-impaired people.

An 11-foot front extension to the stage consists of several modular platforms that can be configured for an orchestra, for dance, and for performances in front of the curtain. Backstage, a 10-foot door will permit passage of large scenery. Even an automobile could be brought in and driven onto the stage or the extension.

At the opposite end of the building will be a more intimate theater space, with tiered seating for 120. This will be ideal for small community theater companies, some of which have staked their claims. Film festivals also are planned for this space and claims are being made to use the theater for a B-western film series.

The elaborate $34 million project has been directed by the 23-member Chesapeake Center for Creative Arts Inc. board of directors. The board and its president, Ned Carey, have gathered support from the community, county, and state. A recent campaign to sell charter memberships has yielded almost 300 responses from residents.

Del. Joan Cadden of the 31st District has been a guiding force in the CCCA project.

Acting Executive Director Wayne L. Shipley was selected to monitor the program on-site, and to offer suggestions and corrections as the project progressed. Having taught English and theater arts for 30 years at Andover and North County high schools, Shipley brings an extensive educational and theatrical background.

Before renovations at the Brooklyn Park site, Shipley worked with Actors Company Theatre in "Steel Magnolias" and Pasadena Theatre Company in "Little Shop of Horrors," and gained valuable insight into what was needed to stage productions in this space.

Shipley was able to draw talented workers to the center. His former student, David Garman, a 1989 graduate of Andover, has donated his services as lighting designer.

Grateful for the cooperation and understanding of the board, Shipley is convinced that this state-of-the-art facility "will be a model nationwide."

Shipley's dedication to the center brought him to social and performance events in the community to ask for support. Benefiting the center have been three highly successful indoor golf tournaments and several concerts. On Feb. 13, two sold-out benefit performances of "Love Letters" were held at Granny's Cafe in Pasadena.

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