After 13 years in its tightly packed Scenic Drive space, Modesto’s plucky Prospect Theater Project finally has room to spare.
The independent theater company has moved out of its original location to a larger downtown K Street space that nearly doubles its size and expands its possibilities.
“This has always been an enormous leap of faith,” said Prospect founder and artistic director Jack Souza. “I never through I’d leave (the Scenic) space. It kept us on the fringe, the periphery. But what this space allows me to conceive is the big motivator for the move.”
Prospect will debut its new site Friday with the premiere of its production of “Next Fall.” The Tony Award-nominated play centers on a gay male couple, one who is devoutly religious and another an atheist, as they face life challenges.
The play – and Prospect’s entire 2013-14 schedule – was selected before the change of venue became a reality. Souza said he has been casually looking at spaces in the downtown area. But then last fall, he found the K Street site and, because of its proximity to popular restaurants and nightspots, decided to make the move.
The Scenic Drive space closed after its last performance of “Mauritius” in early December. Then the company moved into the new space and began renovating the former print shop. Walls were torn down and the 3,800-square-foot space was gutted to create an open and adjustable performance area.
The new configuration seats a maximum of about 160 people; the Scenic theater could fit 70, tops. There is also a green room, lobby and lighting booth area.
For the first time, the company will have a dedicated workshop as well. Before, Souza would have to work on sets and construction in the performance space, limiting time for rehearsal and other uses.
“This fundamentally changes what I can do,” Souza said. “I always want it to be a fluid, flexible space.”
The company is leasing the new space. It has raised more than half of the $120,000 needed for the move’s capital campaign, mostly from private individual donors.
Last-minute renovations and construction still were underway this week.
“Next Fall” director David Barbaree said the new location gives the production more room and easily accommodates the eight different sets needed for the play. “The great thing about this space as a director is we’re able to have all the sets on the same stage,” he said. “We really get to explore with all the space we have here.”
The play started with an off-Broadway run before going to Broadway in 2010. It earned Tony nominations that year for best play and best direction of play. For the Prospect production, the central couple will be played by Colton Dennis, as atheist Adam, and Jon Cates, as Christian Luke.
“The play has relevance to a lot of people – not just gay people,” Barbaree said. “A lot of people deal with religious differences in their relationships. A lot of couples have different ideologies, and it can become a deal breaker. It’s a love story with serious undertones.”