Staff Intern: John Spruill The City of Duluth is looking to take over the space currently occupied by the New Dawn Theater Company, forcing them to relocate no earlier than January of next year.
DULUTH -- New Dawn Theater Company has announced it needs to find a new location by the beginning of 2014. The city of Duluth has other plans for the venue's space -- and it can do that because the theater rents from the city on a month-to-month basis.
On March 11, Duluth entered into an agreement with consulting firm Morris & Fellows to provide professional services for redevelopment planning to revitalize the downtown dining and nightlife district in the Old City Hall Block, now called The Block, where the theater is located.
"We knew when we moved in that the city cut us a great deal financially since we're a nonprofit and we knew it would be short term, but everything we did turning it into thousands of people coming to the building ... we thought we were safe," New Dawn's Sherry Ingbritsen said. "We register about 11,000 to 13,000 people a year that come into the building. That brings more revenue to us, but it also helps the businesses downtown."
New Dawn released a letter to the public on Monday, letting everyone know its plan for the future. One thing Ingbritsen wanted residents to know is that the Duluth company does not plan to shut its doors.
"That's the big thing -- we are not closing our doors," Ingbritsen said. "There have been so many theater companies over the last two years who have closed their doors and have gone. We are not going to be one of them."
When Sherry and her husband, Paul, moved into the Main Street location in 2008, the couple plus company board members gutted, fixed and repaired the space.
"We didn't bring anybody in. We did it all ourselves," she said. "We had shifts 24/7. We had one month to open 'One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest.'"
While renovations were underway, the cast also had to rehearse in the space.
"They got used to rehearsing with lots of distractions," Ingbritsen said with a laugh. "But it was worth it to us."
With eight months before its moving date, the board members are looking for a new place to rent. It needs to be 7,000- to 10,000-square-feet with a stage, two dressing rooms, two bathrooms, a concession area, costume and prop storage, a workshop and a stage -- preferably in Duluth.
"We don't want to go far. We want to stay in the Duluth area," Ingbritsen said. "But if worse comes to worse, we want to stay in the surrounding area. We will not leave Gwinnett County.
"We don't want to lose our board members (who come from Tucker, Winder, Roswell, Duluth), our actors and of course, our patrons."
If there are maintenance needs in the new space, Ingbritsen said that she and her team don't mind doing their own repairs and renovations.
"Even if there's a place where the walls need to be knocked down, we have to build a stage or the building is two stories where we use the basement as storage and warehouse, that's fine," she said. "We want to keep it as close to here as possible, but we're open to other locations."
Although its big move date hasn't been set in stone (or technically written on paper), New Dawn's lease on its storage unit is up on June 8.
"That's where we build our sets and that's where we house our storage, our props," Ingbritsen said. "That's going to be a headache right there. That's step one."
The nonprofit has several plays it's preparing to perform throughout 2013, including "Barabbas" that opens April 18. The remainder of the schedule is "Night at the Wax Museum" in June, "M*ASH" in August, "Under Milkwood" in October and "A Victorian Christmas" in December.
It also has planned two plays for 2014: Neil Simon's "Plaza Suite" in February and Agatha Christie's "Appointment with Death" in April.
"Even though we don't know if we're going to be here or not, we will be performing," Ingbritsen said. "We're hoping where ever we end up going, we can be there renovating, remodeling and getting ready while we're still here so we can have a flawless transition.
"But I guess we'll go where the theater takes us."
One way people can help is by donating to the theater for moving costs and refurbishing its new location by mailing a check to New Dawn Theater Company, 3087 Main St., Duluth, GA 30096, by visiting www.newdawntheatercompany.com or calling 678-887-5015.