Swift Creek Mill Theatre reopens after renovation
By Ashley McLeod, Staff Writer
Dec 11, 2013, 12:54
ASHLEY MCLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The Swift Creek Mill Theatre now has a two-story addition on the rear of the building following recent renovations.
CHESTERFIELD — Just in time for their 350th birthday, the historic Swift Creek Mill Theatre has recently reopened following the completion of renovations to upgrade the theatre both inside and out.
The renovations began May 6, causing the theater just north of Colonial Heights to shut down the summer productions and children’s shows. After being closed for six months, the theater is back to business. Their first production began on Nov. 7.
“It all happened very fast,” said Jennifer Procise, the director of development and marketing for the theatre.
According to Procise, the renovations on the theatre cost approximately $1.2 million, which was paid by the owners of the property, Roslyn Farm Corporation.
The main purpose of the renovation was to make the theater compliant with the Americans with Disabilities Act, allowing for easier handicapped access to the upstairs of the building, which holds the theater. This included building larger bathrooms for better access, installing an elevator to the second floor, and creating a second entrance into the upstairs theater, which has no stairs or long ramps.
ASHLEY McLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT Following fundraising done by the theatre, the stage now has new lighting, as well as new sound boards. The theatre now has wheelchair seating also as part of the renovations.
The original entrance into the theater is still in place, which includes four stairs. Procise said that additional folding chairs are on the way, which are to be used alongside the wheelchair seating.
“We had to take out 33 seats to include the wheelchair seating, so now the theatre has 210 seats outside of the wheelchair seating,” Procise said.
The renovations also improved the backstage area of the theater. A full second level was built onto the back of the stage area, which before only held a small space along with the orchestra pit. Now the area includes new bathrooms, dressing rooms, laundry facilities, and a green room, where performers hang out.
The downstairs addition on the back of the building includes a new, larger kitchen, with a new walk-in freezer. The building also has a new HVAC system, electrical upgrades, and now has sprinklers throughout the entire building.
The renovations ran into a small snag at first. Underneath the building, the company ran into large boulders blocking the way. Special equipment had to be brought in in order to remove these boulders, which Procise says took an additional month of construction time.
Along with the renovations paid for by Roslyn Farms, the theater did their own fundraising in order to upgrade equipment for a more modern theater experience.
“We were able to buy new lighting equipment, install running lights on the floor, and we built a new light booth, which has a brand new light board as well as new sound equipment,” Procise said.
ASHLEY McLEOD/HOPEWELL NEWS/NEWS-PATRIOT The new hallway on the first floor of the theatre leads to the new, larger bathrooms, as well as an elevator, which was installed in order to become ADA compliant.
“We’ve raised about $175,000 to $200,000 for this project, which also included hearing assistance devices, new microphones, and technology upgrades.”
The historic integrity of the building was kept during the renovations, which had to comply with both equipment and historic requirements.
The 350-year-old building was originally used as a gristmill in 1663, and was converted into a theatre in 1965, which it has remained since.
The theater is now completely up and running and the current nightly production at the theatre is “The Drowsy Chaperone.” During the day the theater holds its children’s program, which is currently featuring the production “Drifty’s North Star Jamboree.”