Artistic Expansion 

The Orpheum files a building permit for its new performing arts center.

The historic Orpheum Theatre will soon break ground on a multimillion-dollar educational facility that Orpheum CEO Pat Halloran is calling "the Juilliard of the South."

The Orpheum filed a $10.2 million permit for its planned Centre for Performing Arts and Education, a two-story, 39,000 square-foot facility. Construction for the building is slated to begin in late March. It will be located at 225 S. Main, adjacent to the Orpheum in a parking lot formally owned by Memphis Light, Gas, and Water.

"It's going to be beautiful," said Halloran. "A very fresh, contemporary building that just welcomes people by its design. It's going to be all glass on the front with a big open arms entrance for people to come in and either participate in a meeting that's going on in the theater or go to a class upstairs where they're going to learn more about entertainment."

click to enlarge An artist’s rendering of the new Orpheum Centre for the Performing Arts & Education
  • An artist’s rendering of the new Orpheum Centre for the Performing Arts & Education

Another $4.5 million is needed to satisfy the funding requirement for the project. Halloran said he's confident the remaining balance will be raised during the construction period.

The center would primarily target kids and young adults from ages 5 to 25 and offer more than 20 programs, including musical theater workshops taught by Broadway professionals, career assistance and training for aspiring arts professionals, technical training in sound and lighting, and training in arts, nonprofit, and business management.

There will be a theater in the facility with a state-of-the-art stage and a 356-seat auditorium, a rehearsal hall where actors can prepare for plays that will debut at the Orpheum, and an audio/video classroom.

The Orpheum's administration has been planning the center since 2011, when it began contemplating ways to provide more space for its performing arts programs, which serve more than 70,000 people annually.

"This building isn't just going to serve kids who want to be the next soap-opera star or opera singer. We're also going to be teaching people how to be videographers and edit video and record music in our audio studio," Halloran said. "It's not just limited to the performing arts. We're going to be teaching kids how to prepare for college. We're going to have seminars and classes for adults on weight control, tax preparation, travel direction, [and how to] become social media users if they aren't familiar with Facebook, Google, and all those [websites]. It's an educational experience."

Halloran said the Orpheum has managed to generate funding for the facility through contributions from foundations, corporations, and individual donations, as well as from the theatre's annual auction. He said they're continuing to search for funding.

"We're not leaving any rocks unturned. We're making appeals to people all over the community. We still have to raise $4.5 million, but we're going to do that," Halloran said. "This is going to be one of those projects that people are going to talk about for the next 100 years."

Construction for the center is scheduled to be complete in April 2015.

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