Not-so-deep House

The pink and green terrazzo, complete with repeating floral motif, now extends far back to the very end of the theater's lobby. Art Deco mirrors and teaklike wooden pillars that Arisco accurately likens to the decor of a ship captain's cabin stand on majestic display. And inside the cavernous theater itself are fluted columns, floral wall sculptures, a grand proscenium, and the original sea-foam green paint, liberated from behind curtains, wallpaper, fiberglass insulation, and chicken wire. Envisioning the restored beauty of these once hidden treasures requires a leap of imagination, as the theater is still in the throes of demolition, but the possibility of the past coming back to life in a new setting and a new era is part of the restoration excitement. "I feel like a kid in the woods or an explorer in an old house," remarks Arisco, who has ventured into parts of the old theater the rest of us never will see -- up and down hidden ladders, across a secret catwalk, along a tunnel that discreetly overlooks the lobby.

Along with the historical delights come some structural challenges. What Actors' staff assumed would be an easy task -- transforming the balcony into their children's theater -- requires considerably more work than they'd imagined. As a result, construction won't start until at least next year, during what Arisco terms "Phase Two." Meanwhile, all efforts focus on "Phase One," the 600-seat main-stage theater, slated to open with Man of La Mancha on November 15. Subsequent phases include the possibility of a second-floor "black-box" theater where Arisco hopes to stage readings and develop new works that eventually will be seen on the main stage. Just like the rehabbing of an old house, the work, it seems, could go on forever. But for Arisco, opening his season on time is more important than having the entire theater in perfect shape: "With spit and polish we'll have a restored lobby and a working main stage by November.

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