Musical brand

MetroStage gets a whole new place

Rayshun LaMarr, Roz White, TC Carson, Nia Harris and Yvertte Spears in Blackberry Daze at MetroStage (Photo courtesy Carolyn Griffin)

ALEXANDRIA, VA – the only small professional theater in Alexandria, Subway, will reopen its curtains in 2022 in a brand new location, or Place that is, one of the new stylish and chic residential condominium complexes being built in Old Town North.

In spring 2022, the non-profit 501 © 3 MetroStage will move into Venue on N. Fairfax Street, fully equipped with a performance stage, cafe tables, theater seating, full-size kitchen and more.

The site will include new high-rise condominiums as well as luxury townhouses along the Potomac in Old Town North, Alexandria’s designated arts and culture district. Built by Carr Companies, which has a long-standing relationship with MetroStage, the venue will not only be home to residents of Alexandria, but also Alexandria’s only small professional theater.

Render of the entire Venue complex. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Griffin)

Founded in 1984, MetroStage was a fledgling company, until business school graduate Carolyn Griffin joined the force as artistic director. “I loved the theater,” Griffin says. “I went to a MetroStage party and got hooked. “

After that first screening, Griffin reached out to Artistic Director Jill Kamp to join the board, and that afternoon she was the Managing Director. Thirty-seven years later, Carolyn is still in the theater as artistic director of production; in fact, she’s the spearhead of their new chapter at Venue.

Over the years, MetroStage has had many homes. Their first two locations were on Duke St .; in 1987, they operated from spaces belonging to Bodywork companies (then The Oliver Carr Company); then they moved to Old Town North at 1201 N. Royal, where Muse condominiums will soon be. Now their fourth and hopefully final location will be in the heart of Alexandria’s arts and culture district: 925 N. Fairfax St., just along the iconic waterfront.

From left to right: Carolyn Griffin; Nancy Pelosi; Dick Grégoire; Lillian Gregory; Ayanna Gregory (Photo courtesy Carolyn Griffin)

Griffin is proud of the history of her theater, where it happened and how far it has come, literally and figuratively. She is also eager to show off everything she has planned for their new build and new productions.

In 2019, the old MetroStage on N. Royal was demolished and construction on the new Venue and MetroStage began. Significant progress has been made on the condos, townhouses and the theater shell, which MetroStage will design and contract itself, in exchange for rent-free space for 30 years. Griffin hopes to complete construction by spring 2022 to be ready for the 2022-2023 show season.

With the season ahead, prepare for MetroStage like you’ve never seen it before. Of course, you can expect their traditional lineup of varied shows, featuring actors of color and actors from across the country, but you will also be treated to some unique collaborations featuring tango music, poetry and unconventional instruments.

From left to right: Roz White; Rayshun LaMarr; Anthony Manough; Lori Williams (Photo courtesy Carolyn Griffin)

These performances, both appreciated and unprecedented, will be presented for the first time in a new performance space. On the main level of Venue, MetroStage greets guests in their lobby, walls adorned with local art by Barbara Januszkiewicz, floor-to-ceiling glass windows beckoning in the natural light shining on the Potomac.

Going down the main staircase you enter the theater, a large space with high ceilings and 109 seats. Just as Griffin maintains diversity among its productions, she is adamant this new space maintains variety among its performance space: the seating variety includes 66 theater seats, 44 cafe table seats, front half-stage; the possibility of moving the café tables from the ground to the stage allows a multitude of performances, from cabaret to musicals to symphony to one-woman show.

Griffin adds, “Once we open I have so much exciting work to share with this community and beyond this community. “

The new MetroStage is under construction on N. Fairfax Street in the new Venue condominiums. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Griffin)

People come from the Ring Road and beyond to watch MetroStage’s exciting performance, while boosting the economy. Griffin explains, “We’ve always had an audience beyond the ring road, so we’re bringing in people from all over the metro area; buses arrive from Richmond; people are descended from Annapolis; so I like to say that we are not only a cultural force, but an economic force for the city.

Of course, before a show people like to dine or go shopping, which they can do at many of Alexandria’s local shops and restaurants. After a show, you may fancy a nightcap cocktail or a treat, which you can indulge in at the local bars and bakeries.

You could also satiate yourself during the show with the revamped MetroStage dealerships. Griffin details, “We’ll have a lovely concession bar, an ABC license, a beer and wine license, and each show will have a signature cocktail. It’s a little something else to enhance the whole experience. Theatergoers can also nibble on small plates and tapas during a show.

Render of the new MetroStage entry. (Photo courtesy of Carolyn Griffin)

“The theater is a catalyst for other economic ventures,” Griffin reiterates, “and I have no doubts that we have always served this purpose and enriched the cultural life of the city.”

Alexandria would certainly not be the same without its arts and culture, and what is art without the theater. As MetroStage goes through this interim period of construction and pandemic, Griffin’s ideas are being built and big plans come to fruition. She can’t wait to show all theatergoers, locals and tourists alike, what MetroStage is capable of.

As the pandemic persists, COVID-19 protocols will be implemented in MetroStage’s new space. Vaccines will be required for entry, Grififn said, masks must be worn by staff and the public, and actors will wear their masks at all times offstage. “We will also be upgrading the air filtration system to improve air quality and safety,” adds Griffin.

For more information on MetroStage, their construction, COVID-19 protocols and the upcoming season, visit metrostage.org.


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