Westport’s in the money

Conn. Venue gets $5 mil grant for renovation

SOUTHBURY, Conn. — The Westport Country Playhouse, currently prepping the transfer of its production of “Our Town” to Broadway this fall, has received a $5 million grant toward its major renovation plans.

Connecticut Gov. John G. Rowland has announced that the State Bond Commission “is expected to approve” the grant from the state’s Dept. of Economic & Community Development, which is tantamount to saying it’s a done deal.

The $5 million will go toward a $17 million expansion that will permit the summer theater, which opened its doors in 1931 and is currently headed by a.d. Joanne Woodward, to operate year-round.

The remaining $13 million of the $30 million total the WCP is in the process of raising will be earmarked for the expansion of artistic and educational programs and an endowment fund to safeguard the future of the playhouse.

The nonprofit Connecticut Theater Foundation, which operates the WCP, has raised approximately $8 million toward the construction phase of the project.

Pending approvals and additional funding, construction will begin in the fall of 2003, after next year’s summer season. During construction in 2004, the WCP summer season will be produced at an offsite location. The renewed Playhouse is scheduled to open in summer 2005 to celebrate the WCP’s 75th season.

The nonprofit theater is completing its plans for a limited-run Broadway transfer of its summer staging of “Our Town,” starring Woodward’s husband, Paul Newman. Show begins previews Nov. 22 at the Booth Theater for a Dec. 4 opening. The run is skedded to end Jan. 26.

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