The company's new headquarters will be part of a 31-story condominium apartment building, Symphony House, to be constructed on the southwest corner of Broad and Pine Streets. The theater portion - scheduled for completion in early 2007, according to Garonzik - will be a structure several stories high, connected to the tower and extending south to Lombard Street.
Although a design by Kieran Timberlake Associates architects is not expected for a couple of months, Garonzik said it will contain a 400-seat theater, rehearsal space, storage and offices, which the 30-year-old company has never had together in the same space.
She said she anticipated the theater headquarters would cost between $10 million and $12 million. The company will own the space, and its relationship to the building will be similar to that of a condominium apartment owner.
The company's theater will be the fifth venue for theatrical performance built on the Avenue of the Arts in the last decade. The first company to build on the cultural strip was the Wilma Theater, whose space at Broad and Spruce Streets opened in 1997. It was followed in 1999 by the Prince Music Theater at 1412 Chestnut St., a couple of doors from Broad Street; the Freedom Theatre on North Broad Street in 2000; and the Perelman Theater in the Kimmel Center for the Performing Arts, which opened in 2001.
Philadelphia Theatre Company is the last of the major Center City producing theaters to build its own venue (the others are the Wilma, the Prince and the Arden Theatre Company, which moved into new headquarters in Old City in 1995).
Symphony House will be erected on a parking lot owned by the Philadelphia Industrial Development Corp. The theater company's search for an Avenue of the Arts location was aided significantly by a PIDC requirement that the developer incorporate retail space and an entertainment venue.
"It was quite public in the community that we were out looking, that we were the last major company that didn't have a place . . . and we and Carl Dranoff found each other," Garonzik said.
The company was founded in 1974 as an amateur group, and in 1982 became the second city-based company (after the Philadelphia Drama Guild) to become affiliated with Actors' Equity Association, the professional actors union. Building a reputation for staging strongly performed productions of contemporary American plays, the company now has about 5,500 subscribers and attracts a total audience of about 35,000 annually to the 324-seat Plays & Players.
Although the century-old theater is an intimate space with an old-fashioned charm unique in Philadelphia, Plays & Players, Garonzik pointed out, is also technically unsophisticated, uncomfortable, and inconvenient for audiences.
"A part of our hearts will always be at Plays & Players, but it's time to move on with a space that meets our production objectives. We aim pretty high," she said.
In a new theater outfitted with 21st-century technology, Garonzik aims to improve the quality of the productions. With a larger seating capacity and a more prominent location, she expects to increase subscriptions and attendance.
Contact theater critic Douglas J. Keating at 215-854-5609 or email@example.com.