The Mayo Performing Arts Center (MPAC), Morristown’s Community Theatre since 1937, is a renovated movie house that was built as part of the Walter Reade Theatre chain in the 1930s. Prior to its rebirth in 1994, the building fell into major disrepair and was slated for demolition. However, a group of volunteers who saw the potential for a major performing arts center in Morristown pulled the boards off the doors and began the renovation process, opening with a gala performance featuring the Kirov Orchestra on September 29, 1994.
Thus began the road back to glory for The Community Theatre. This one performance galvanized the community, and through the generosity of many loyal supporters contributing to two capital campaigns over the last 17 years, led the Theatre’s transformation into a first-class performing arts center with a new stage and dressing room accommodations, state-of-the-art sound system, computerized lighting system, concert grand piano, orchestra pit, air conditioning and many other upgrades. We have also built a professional rehearsal studio for our Performing Arts School and a new administration building that includes the Starlight Room, which serves as a VIP lounge for our Starlight Society members, an intimate performance space, and a venue for special events. Recently, we renovated the Balcony Lobby to provide patrons with an increased number of restrooms, new concession bars and a reception area that houses the Art Upstairs Gallery – a gift of the John and Margaret Post Foundation.
Our Need for the Lobby Expansion Project
Following the first campaign, known as the Theatre Builders Capital Campaign, which funded the renovation of the auditorium, the original plan for the Setting the Stage Capital Campaign (second campaign) was to upgrade both the balcony and main lobbies. However, the Board of Trustees had to shift their focus to the most immediate need at that time, which was a back-of-house renovation to create an alternative way to load and unload performances, because the area where we normally accessed the stage was being sold to a commercial developer. This back-of-house renovation would also accommodate the administrative offices that were inadequately housed off-site, enlarge the stage, provide a professional rehearsal studio for the Performing Arts School and dressing rooms for the artists, as well as upgrade the lighting, sound and production equipment. The Setting the Stage Capital Campaign was successfully completed in spring 2010 and has transformed the Theatre into a state-of-the-art performing arts center that can stage headline acts and Broadway touring shows. As part of our ongoing building upgrades, we also were able to renovate the Balcony Lobby, which was completed in April 2011.
Now is the time to finish the transformation! The main lobby needs to be expanded to make room for additional and upgraded restrooms, an elevator for access to the balcony and art gallery, and an enlarged box office to accommodate our front-of-house staff. The project will also include improvements to the theatre plaza area including refurbished columns and a new marquee. Some of these improvements, such as those to the façade and exterior, are necessary because the building is 75 years old. Plans for the inside, however, are in keeping with expectations for public facilities, advances in technology and new building codes designed to improve accessibility and public safety.
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Highlights of the Lobby Expansion Project
- New Restrooms – It is important to keep the Theatre in line with other performing arts centers in an effort to provide a quality facility and an exceptional experience while visiting the theatre. The current restrooms in the lower lobby are deficient, and much of the plumbing is still the original work from 1937. The Lobby Expansion Project will provide new and additional restrooms to bring the facility up to today’s building codes and meet current regulations for public buildings.
- Elevator – to provide access for everyone to the balcony seats and the Art Upstairs Gallery. Installing an elevator will make the balcony lobby, art gallery and balcony reception space fully accessible for all of our patrons. It will also help bring the lobby areas up to building code and in compliance with the Americans with Disabilities Act (ADA) requirements.
- Enlarged Box Office – to provide new office space for box office personnel and increase the efficiency of ticket sales and the running of the front of house. Currently, the box office is housed in the former ladies room corridor, and as the theatre continues to grow, the space is proving inadequate. With an enlarged box office area and additional office space in the lobby in a newly expanded front of house, we will be able to free up office space on the 3rd floor Pine Street Center which is often used by the box office and house management staff as an additional work space.
- Redesigned Plaza – to incorporate extensions that blend aesthetically with the original building, repair the original columns and crumbling plaza walls and replace the antiquated Marquee. The plaza will be re-designed, as the exterior façade is just as important as providing new restrooms, an elevator to access the Balcony, and an enlarged box office that will efficiently serve our patrons. The four columns at the entrance of the Theatre are rapidly deteriorating due to water damage over the years, the plaza walls are discolored and crumbling, and the antiquated Theatre Marquee needs to be replaced.
The Mayo Performing Arts Center’s Lobby Expansion renovation is essential to increasing productivity as we continue to grow. The plan provides responsible solutions and improvements to the building’s problems – including safety, energy efficiency, accessibility, usability, and comfort – in ways that preserve the historic character of the structure.
The Theatre has transformed itself exponentially over the last 17 years through the generous support of individual donors, foundations and corporations. In fact, based on the Americans for the Arts – Arts and Economic Prosperity III Calculator, MPAC generates more than $12 million in annual revenue for area businesses, an amount that has doubled since the Theatre’s last economic impact study was conducted in 2005. This is further evidence of the importance of the Mayo Performing Arts Center as an anchor arts institution for our state’s arts community.
This transformation is truly born of the community, with more than 200 volunteers, 1,300 subscribers, and approximately 1,200 donors who enthusiastically support this performing arts center each year. Once again, we turn to our loyal supporters and new friends to help us attain our $1.5 million goal over the next two years and complete the Theatre’s transformation, which will enrich the lives of people throughout the region. The arts are essential to our quality of life and your support would be greatly appreciated!
For more information on the Main Lobby Building Project, please contact the Development Department at (973) 539-0345 Ext. 6503 or Ext. 6514.