Oak Ridge National Laboratory


News Release

Media Contact: Mike Bradley ()
Communications and External Relations


UT-Battelle donates $175,000 to restore Oak Ridge Playhouse

ORNL Director Thom Mason announces UT-Battelle's $175,000 gift to the Oak Ridge Playhouse with Gene Spejewski, Treasurer of the Oak Ridge Playhouse board, and David Freeman, the board's Vice President.

OAK RIDGE, Tenn., Aug. 31, 2009 — UT-Battelle has announced a gift of $175,000 to the Oak Ridge Playhouse to help restore one of the oldest community theaters in the Southeast.

The gift, presented by Oak Ridge National Laboratory Director Thom Mason prior to Friday's Playhouse production of "The Graduate," is part of the Oak Ridge Playhouse 'Next Stage' fundraising campaign.

Mason said the funds will be used for a new marquee and will help the Playhouse leverage the $2 million needed to renovate the theatre's aging facilities.

"The Playhouse is an important part Oak Ridge's history," Mason said. "This gift will help preserve our history while supporting the arts in Oak Ridge."

The Playhouse gift is the latest in a series of UT-Battelle's "legacy investments" in the Oak Ridge region. The legacy investments, which include the renovation of Oak Ridge High School and new launch docks and a finish-line tower for the Oak Ridge Rowing Association, are efforts by UT-Battelle to fund projects that will bring value to the community for years to come.

David Bradshaw, co-chair of the Playhouse capital campaign, said the facility originally was built as the Center Theatre movie house. Its conversion in 1957 to a live theatre venue included unique features -- such as an underground tunnel for backstage access -- that have endeared audiences and performers alike for decades.

"There are still people in Oak Ridge from the Manhattan Project era who went on their first date in that old movie house," Bradshaw said. "The theatre productions are fantastic, but the facilities are deteriorating. We want to restore the physical condition of the building to equal the outstanding quality of the productions the public has grown accustomed to seeing there."

Bradshaw said the renovations are separated into four distinct project areas: exterior and main entrance; lobby area; auditorium and stage; and first floor infrastructure and code.

Designers for the Playhouse renovation are McCarty Holsaple and McCarty, which designed the 2005 renovation of the historical Tennessee Theatre in downtown Knoxville.

Established in 1943, Oak Ridge Playhouse is one of East Tennessee's most active community theatres and one of the oldest in the Southeast, offering a wide variety of musicals, comedies, dramas, and children's plays. Located in Historic Jackson Square, the Playhouse facility includes a 344-seat auditorium, dressing rooms and rehearsal space, a costume rental shop, and office space.

A volunteer organization that operates with a balanced budget, the Playhouse enjoys a strong reputation for outstanding theatrical production. Participation in the Playhouse is open to the community.

UT-Battelle manages ORNL for the Department of Energy.