Downtown D.C. develops arts facility

Harman Hall skedded for Oct. '07 bow

WASHINGTON — A new downtown arts facility designed to be a major performing arts destination is taking shape for a scheduled October 2007 debut.

The Shakespeare Theater Company’s 776-seat Sidney Harman Hall will enable the classical theater troupe to expand its offerings dramatically and showcase various acts, promised artistic director Michael Kahn. For example, Kahn said he envisions three-play repertory presentations each season with the company’s existing 450-seat Lansburgh Theater.

Named after its principal benefactor, local businessman Sidney Harman, the $85 million facility will feature an auditorium for theater, music and dance. The transformable space will enable proscenium, thrust, semi-arena or bare-stage presentations.

The facility is part of an 11-story building co-owned by the Shakespeare Theater and the Intl. Union of Bricklayers and Allied Craftworkers. It is going up across the street from the Verizon Center and one block from the Lansburgh.

The unfinished project was unveiled to media and others last week by Kahn and managing director Nicholas Goldsborough.

Kahn said Harman Hall, designed by A.J. Diamond of Diamond & Schmitt Architects in Toronto, will enable the theater to expand its offerings, including the commission of new translations and adaptations of classic plays.

Harman and his family initially donated $19.5 million toward the project and have since pledged an additional $5 million in a challenge grant. When construction is complete, the two theaters will be known as the Harman Center for the Arts.

The company still needs to raise $30 million, said Landon Butler, chairman of the board of trustees.

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