- The Enterprise
- The Recorder
This time last year, Friends of the Leonardtown Theater was focused on generating an audience with a hankering for foreign and independent films. It also had hopes of showing those movies in a revitalized downtown theater — a project the group had initially planned to spearhead.
But last week, board member Theresa Wood said Friends is no longer focused on raising funds to revitalize or operate the theater, which real estate records say dates back to 1946. The building also needs repair. Friends now hopes someone else would come in as the main tenant, use the space as a theater and allow Friends to use it for occasional showings. “Whoever does that and how it gets done almost seems secondary,” Wood said.
Friends of the Leonardtown Theater started in fall 2012, and since then two members — Joe Orlando and Jim Bershon, both businessmen with arts backgrounds — have left, saying their schedules were too full to stay onboard, and that it wasn’t clear that the group could obtain the old theater.
“We would love to revitalize the building and make it back into whatever the town would like it to be,” said Howard Stein, a Rockville investor and one of the building owners. But, Stein said, he and two partners would have to have a clear plan about how their investment would be recuperated. “I think we would need a vision and an operator to run it,” he said. Currently, Stein is working with a broker to make repairs to the theater, along with the restaurant and apartments attached to it.
“We were idealistic,” Wood said. But, she said, Friends is still going strong. “It would be a mistake to think that progress isn’t being made.”
The group has applied for a nonprofit designation and is still building its audience, Wood said. It showed nine movies last year and plans to show more in 2014 in a renovated chapel off the town square. And, Friends’ newest offering is PechaKucha (pronounced peh-CHAH koo-chah), an event where presenters go through 20 presentation slides, with 20 seconds dedicated to each, on a topic of their choice. It originated in Tokyo about 11 years ago, and is Japanese for “chitchat.”
“It’s kind of like an open-mic night,” said Dana Van Abbema. It’s a place where people don’t have to sing, play an instrument or have a comedy act. But they can share their ideas on anything from art, to architecture, to musings on everyday life, Van Abbema said.
She first saw it in rural Maine, and thought it would be a way to get more people in St. Mary’s talking, and listening to one another. “We would love to see folks reach out to us and say, ‘I have a story to tell,’” Van Abbema said.
Right now, a PechaKucha event is tentatively scheduled for Saturday, April 26, Wood said. And, Friends is looking for volunteers, to serve wherever the group convenes.
“I haven’t met one person who doesn’t want the theater to come back,” Wood said. But “I think it’s more realistic to think about it over the long term.”
“We’re creating something, basically from scratch,” she said. “I’m really proud of what we’ve done over the course of a year.”