Originally Published by Bethesda Beat on 08/16/2019
Written By: Charlie Wright
Round House Theatre in Bethesda will open just in time for its September season following months of interior renovations, introducing the new-look venue to patrons with an open house at the end of August.
The 400-seat theater has been closed since January for renovations to improve acoustics, provide performance flexibility and draw more patrons to events.
Round House Theatre announced its six-play mainstage lineup for the 2019-20 season in March. Managing Director Ed Zakreski said at the time that the renovation project was on schedule to be ready for the first show on Sept. 18.
Construction easily met the September deadline, allowing the theater to invite patrons to a community open house on Aug. 24. The event will feature performances and activities showing off the additions to the theater.
“We want to open the new space with a celebration of our vibrant community,” Artistic Director Ryan Rilette said in a statement. “Round House is a home for outstanding ensemble acting, but also for forming connections and encouraging lifelong learning.”
Associate Artistic Director Nicole A. Watson will open the season directing Jocelyn Bioh’s Off-Broadway show “Schoolgirls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play.” Rilette will direct a pair of plays— Simon Stephens’ “The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time” from Nov. 20 to Dec. 22 and Martyna Majok’s “Cost of Living” from April 1 to 19.
The theater had a three-sided stage, with only a portion of the seats directly focused on the performance. The renovated setup uses a curved design circled by an arc of seating, directing all customers to the center of the action.
The curved stage is movable, shifting depending on the style of the performance and includes two front rows that can be removed to accommodate an orchestra pit.
“We can’t wait to welcome artists and audiences home,” Zakreski said in a statement. “The new theatre will bring our artists and audiences closer together with more comfort, improved sightlines, and drastically improved acoustics, while our upgraded lobby will allow for more dynamic conversations and truly communal experiences.”
The building’s expanded lobby has a full-service bar and café, along with a staircase with better access to the theater.
“Every part of this renovation will help us expand our impact and join the top tier of regional theatres in America,” Zakreski said.
The upgrades were funded by pledges from donors the theater has raised and plans to collect over the next four years. The funding was part of Round House Theatre’s Full Circle campaign, launched in 2018 will the goal of raising $14 million.