Northeast Times

Walnut Street Theatre expands in Port Richmond

The theat­er com­pany pur­chased an 85,000-square-foot prop­erty and build­ing loc­ated at 3340 Frank­ford Ave. to serve as a Scen­ic and Prop­er­ties Shop.

The Wal­nut Street Theatre has pur­chased the 85,000-square-foot prop­erty that houses the com­pany’s Scen­ic and Prop­er­ties Shop, which will be­come a pro­duc­tion cen­ter for the city’s per­form­ing arts com­munity. PHOTO COUR­TESY OF MARK GARVIN

Port Rich­mond is the home of the Wal­nut Street Theatre’s latest ven­ture.

The theat­er com­pany pur­chased an 85,000-square-foot prop­erty and build­ing loc­ated at 3340 Frank­ford Ave. to serve as a Scen­ic and Prop­er­ties Shop, the com­pany an­nounced late last month. 

The Wal­nut, a not-for-profit com­pany, is Amer­ica’s old­est theat­er, dat­ing back to its found­ing in 1809. The com­pany pur­chased the prop­erty with sur­plus funds from the theat­er’s an­nu­al op­er­a­tions, ac­cord­ing to the an­nounce­ment.

The or­gan­iz­a­tion had already been leas­ing 35,000 square feet of the prop­erty since 2007 be­fore pur­chas­ing the en­tire space earli­er this year. 

The build­ing will be used mainly for the pro­duc­tion of scenes and sets built from scratch for the shows the Wal­nut puts on each year. Pro­duc­tion Man­ager Joel Markus, who is re­spons­ible for get­ting shows on stage in a timely and cost ef­fect­ive man­ner, said ac­quir­ing this space will make his job much easi­er.  

“We’ve been out­grow­ing our little area and now we can use this space to ex­pand,” he said. 

The Wal­nut Street Theatre will not be the only pro­duc­tion com­pany mak­ing use of the build­ing. Markus said the Wal­nut would con­tact the loc­al per­form­ing arts com­munity to of­fer their re­sources for them to use. 

“We’ve star­ted to reach out and get in­to the com­munity,” Markus said. He’s been in touch with oth­er theat­ers and schools, ask­ing how they would want to use it.

Wal­nut Street Theatre Pres­id­ent and Pro­du­cing Artist­ic Dir­ect­or Bern­ard Hav­ard said he is ex­cited to see this re­cent ac­quis­i­tion trans­form in­to a cen­ter for the loc­al per­form­ing arts com­munity.   

“It has al­ways been my hope that a cent­ral­ized prop­er­ties stor­age and re­gistry be cre­ated to of­fer the non-profit arts com­munity of Phil­adelphia an ef­fi­cient, cost ef­fect­ive sys­tem to share re­sources among the com­munity,” he said in a state­ment. 

Markus hopes that the Wal­nut Street Theatre’s large in­vent­ory can be shared by the com­munity, al­most like a lib­rary for theat­ers.

“We’re bust­ing at the seams,” said Markus, re­fer­ring to the Wal­nut’s huge cos­tume col­lec­tion that could be lent out to oth­er theat­er com­pan­ies. 

The Wal­nut will of­fer to hold oth­ers’ props in the build­ing, he said. 

“I think it’s go­ing to be great,” Markus said. “It be­comes more of a com­mun­al cen­ter.” ••

You can reach at cdifiore@bsmphilly.com.

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