Daniel Island to get new theater

A new theater is in the works for Daniel Island, one with regional ambitions that could serve as an incubator for Broadway productions.

The Daniel Island Performing Arts Center, to be centrally located on Island Park Drive near Interstate 526, will include a 400-seat proscenium theater with two balconies and a pit that accommodates 28 people. Plans also call for refined acoustics, two well-equipped rehearsal spaces, a catering kitchen, community gathering space and possibly a cafe.

It will be part of a larger mixed-use development that includes retail, offices and more. The design team is headed by the local firm Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects.

The project is spearheaded by Mary Gould, executive director of South of Broadway Theatre Company near Park Circle in North Charleston. Gould, who has had her eye on Daniel Island for years, is acutely aware of the need for more and better performance venues in the Charleston area, she said.

The effort began in April 2014. Since then Gould has consulted with the Daniel Island Company, assembled a board, identified a site, signed a development contract, fleshed out a plan and raised or secured promises for $5 million. This will be the first such venue in Berkeley County.

The building will cost $17 million, so there’s still a lot of fundraising to do, Gould said. Last week, she and her team kicked off an accelerated campaign to raise $1 million by the end of September to pay for theater design, permitting and staff. A bigger capital campaign with a $10 million goal will launch in October. Gould said she hopes to break ground in the summer of 2017.

South of Broadway is a small company that offers several original productions annually and classes for young actors. It will occupy the new venue, producing five or six shows each season. Between three-week runs, the theater will be available to others, Gould said. The rehearsal spaces also can be used by other companies. The enterprise will include education outreach, summer programming and more.

Gould also is aiming for the center to become part of the League of Resident Theatres, a nationwide association of regional destination theaters. Such theaters are eligible for regional Tony awards, she said. The designation would be the first in South Carolina.

The center’s regional economic impact eventually could exceed $30 million a year based on similar projects elsewhere, Gould said.

Preliminary building designs were created by Clemson architecture students in Charleston under the leadership of Ray Huff, Gould said. These designs are informing the work of Stubbs Muldrow Herin Architects.

Daniel Island is growing fast, with lots of new commercial and residential development underway. It straddles Charleston and Berkeley counties and it sits between three large municipalities, Charleston, North Charleston and Mount Pleasant, from which the new theater could draw patrons. Daniel Island Company President Matt Sloan said he expects the community to reach a population of close to 20,000 year-round residents soon. The new theater is a welcomed addition, he said.

“We’re nearing the later chapters that define our development and this is a nice capstone,” Sloan said.

It will complement Volvo Car Stadium and MUSC Health Stadium activities, it will serve local residents and it will likely attract tourists who might make it “an integral part of their itinerary,” he said. “We’re proud to be a part of it.”

While Charleston boasts several very fine performing spaces — the new Gaillard Center, the Dock Street Theatre, Memminger Auditorium, the Sottile Theatre — noticeably absent in the mix are a permanent black box theater and small proscenium theater, a recital hall, a comedy club, a movie screening room, a traditional jazz club, rehearsal spaces for musicians and studio space for visual artists.

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