TCPalm: New Lyric Flagler Center fills void in Stuart's artistic community.
STUART — Just steps from the Lyric Theatre is a new downtown venue for residents to watch off-Broadway productions, have parties or enjoy dinner and a movie — its function will be up to the renter's imagination.
Just days before a Sunday invite-only preview event, John Loesser, executive director of the Lyric Theatre, opened the doors of the newly remodeled Lyric Flagler Center to show off the new studio space that will serve as an extension of its larger sister theater.
The center will start taking rental reservations and be open to the public Monday.
The 5,602-square-foot center was originally thought to be used as a black box theater - a black room used to house smaller theater productions. But, Loesser refused to typecast the facility's three studio spaces and instead imagined them playing different roles.
"I purposely didn't want to program the studio space until we determined the renting demand from the public," Loesser said. "We can be flexible and use it for off-Broadway shows, weddings, cocktail receptions, acts by solo acoustic guitarists or for lectures. We can customize it to whatever you envision the space to be. There's nothing like this in the area."
Formerly known as the Flagler Park Recreation Center, the 1940s-built military hall has undergone a modern makeover.
In two of the new spaces, gone are the linoleum floors and fluorescent lighting. They've been replaced with black-pattern carpeting, moveable LED stage lighting and comfortable contemporary seating.
Each room has audio and video equipment, projection screen and dance floor to transform each space into a movie theater, dance club or even a corporate meeting. The rental spaces include tables and chairs to suit any style of event.
Loesser said he wanted to give the center's two studio theaters and lounge an elegant supper club feel, but any of the rooms can easily be transformed.
As a branch of the 500-seat Lyric Theatre, the new facility, which can accommodate up to 370 guests, will mirror the Lyric's intimate atmosphere.
Rather than a Broadway production at the Lyric, Loesser imagines musical artists performing living room concerts or offering master classes in the new facility. He also envisions evening symphony concerts outside on the patio looking out at the St. Lucie River.
"At the Lyric, you have fixed seating facing a stage and the stage is your frame," Loesser said. "Here we can do theater-in-the-round or do different musical events in the week we couldn't do at the Lyric, because we simply don't have the dates. This now allows me to do four things simultaneously and the demand is there."
An insatiable appetite for arts in the downtown district and a lack of dates had Loesser on a three-year search for new theater space.
In November 2010, the City of Stuart planned to use the hall as a rental facility, but Loesser had envisioned another use for the community. On Jan. 1, the Lyric Theatre and the city entered into a 10-year agreement where the Lyric will manage the city-owned center.
All rental and ticket costs will go toward expenses incurred from managing the center. If the Lyric makes a profit, it will contribute $2 from every ticket sale to the city.
Loesser said he anticipates the center will bring 40,000 people to the downtown area, making the area and the arts stronger.
"It wasn't just about the Lyric's want for a new space, but understanding what the community and downtown needed," Loesser said. "People need to get out and enjoy themselves and now we'll be able to offer extra programming."
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