Theatre Raleigh has left its longtime home at Duke Energy Center for the Performing Arts to open a new theater venue in North Raleigh. Next month, the company will inaugurate the new 18,000-square-foot facility on Old Wake Forest Road with a simultaneous live and streaming performance of the concert show, Leading Ladies, on November 7.
The move ends Theatre Raleigh’s fifteen-year residency as an anchor tenant at Kennedy Theatre, a black box space located at the back of Duke Energy Center for Performing Arts. The company began staging shows there in 2006 under the title Hot Summer Nights, before a name change to Theatre Raleigh in 2012.
“We were finding it more and more difficult to make things work financially in that space,” artistic director Lauren Kennedy Brady says. New charges for security and parking, added to substantial preexisting staff and facility fees, contributed to the relocation decision, according to Kennedy Brady.
“The biggest thing for me was that we couldn’t grow,” she adds.
With access to the space limited and other restrictions in place, the company couldn’t develop its educational offerings, sell concessions or pursue other revenue streams.
“I didn’t want Theatre Raleigh to go under,” Kennedy Brady says. “So we brainstormed about how we could create a more sustainable financial model, and for us, it just meant not being there.”
The new venue gives the company “more autonomy and flexibility,” she notes. It also allows Theatre Raleigh to host fledgling companies and artists in the region looking for rehearsal and production space—commodities that have been in short supply in recent years, following the closures of venues like Common Ground and Manbites Dog Theater.
The company’s new business model “is going to make it very affordable to offer to others,” Kennedy Brady says. “I really want to offer that kind of energy and space for people who are starting out—to have it not be such a crazy risk.”
Lauren Kennedy Brady ultimately intends to transform the space into a multi-venue destination, with a 300-seat main theater, a 99-seat black box theater and a separate large rehearsal space, along with dedicated scene and costume shops. “It’s what I’ve been dreaming of for years,” she says. “And now, we’re going to bold-move it.”
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