The exciting and long-awaited construction begins on the Morrison Avenue building
PORTLAND, OREGON – April 17, 2023 The long wait is over! Artists Repertory Theatre (ART) is thrilled to begin the next phase of construction on the 1515 SW Morrison Avenue location on April 17, 2023. Since 2018, ART has been in a capital campaign to revitalize its home. Upon completion of the building’s outer shell and roof, the newly-built lobby will serve as the initial performance space with seating for about 150.
The road to reimagining the Artists Rep theatre space started with a major gift in 2018 to pay off the mortgage. That gift led to the sale of the north half of the downtown block in July of 2019. Since then, the project has been devised into a multi-phase project with phase one complete – moving utilities, making seismic upgrades, demolition, abatement, and Lever Architecture’s design of the project.
Throughout its history, ART has produced groundbreaking works that have shaped the theatrical landscape. It is long overdue for our theatrical home to mirror this level of quality, providing our audience with good sightlines and comfortable seats, accessible entrances and bathrooms, and heating and air conditioning that works.
Phase two currently includes raising the roof to accommodate a higher theatrical space, completing the outer core, shell, lobby, and finishing the seismic upgrades. Subsequent phases will see the construction of two additional theatres; the Mainstage with 178 seats and the Studio with 99 seats, plus rehearsal, backstage and collaborative spaces. Some areas will offer flexible configurations, allowing the building to be activated for a full night of entertainment. Pedestrians and train commuters will be drawn to the large glass windows giving them a peek into a warm, welcoming lobby serving as a cabaret performance space. Patrons will be thrilled with the two floors of parking below with access by elevator and the commissioned mural that will add beauty to the characteristic outer red walls.
Since its founding in 1982, ART has risen to be a significant presence in American theatre with a history of producing acclaimed regional, national, and world premieres. Since 2015, ART has become an important generator of new works, commissioning twelve (12) plays by diverse playwrights, including Larissa FastHorse’s The Thanksgiving Play (Broadway debut this April at Second Stage’s Hayes Theater in New York City directed by Tony Award-winner Rachel Chavkin, with ART’s Artistic Director Jeanette Harrison as Associate Director), Hansol Jung’s Wolf Play (Off Broadway debut last year), and Kareem Fahmy’s American Fast (ART premiere in January 2023 and in the midst of a three-theatre Rolling World Premiere). Additionally, through the Mercury Project, ART supported the development of over 55 new works during the pandemic. Executive Director J.S. May explains, “Throughout its history, ART has produced groundbreaking works that have shaped the theatrical landscape. It is long overdue for our theatrical home to mirror this level of quality, providing our audience with good sightlines and comfortable seats, accessible entrances and bathrooms, and heating and air conditioning that works.”
Moving into our space means that ART will continue to pave the way for American theatre and serve as a catalyst for producing bold new work from underrepresented voices. Larissa FastHorse expressed, “I’m so grateful to have had the support of Artists Rep in developing [The Thanksgiving Play]. The finishing commission they gave me came at the perfect time to get this script into performance shape.” ART’s Artistic Director Jeanette Harrison and Associate Director of The Thanksgiving Play, currently working alongside FastHorse and Chavkin on Broadway, shares “It’s so crucial for writers to have the opportunity to develop their work and fine tune their craft with companies like Artists Rep in order to have a wider reach with their words. And that’s especially true for writers whose stories have been traditionally marginalized by the American theatre. I’m so proud that Artists Rep has a history of supporting writers, especially BIPOC women writers, at critical moments in their careers, from Larissa FastHorse to Hansol Jung. I’m looking forward to helping catapult more writers to the next stage of their careers.”
Harrison continues, “The newly renovated building enables Artists Rep to expand on our history as Portland’s first professional theater company, and the first company to produce some of the most exciting new plays in the American theatre today.” With a goal of housing a vibrant collective of arts companies, the re-imagined space will build upon ART’s ArtsHub. In the last year of operation at the Morrison space, the ArtsHub welcomed over 1500 gatherings, 380 public events, 462 rehearsals, 500 performances, 50 nonprofits served, and 422 classes. ART plans to continue offering affordable performance and rehearsal space for a number of nonprofits all across the area. ART is reaching out to the community, asking what they need, and answering that call.