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.” ••