CLARKSBURG, W.Va. — As the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center in downtown Clarksburg takes shape ahead of its spring grand opening, city officials are already beginning to book events for the theater’s spaces.
“There’s a lot of opportunities. Certainly we have the performance hall, but also we have the ballroom, which is available for social events and for meetings,” said Ryan Tolley, executive director of the Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center. “It will have a lot of capabilities to show presentations. It will certainly be a very classy, very professional-looking environment there and flexible space as well.”
Tolley said events such as reunions, birthdays and even weddings have been among the inquiries.
With less than a year before it opens to the public, renovations are moving from the outside presence of the historic Robinson Grand to its inside appearance.
“We had a lot of external work throughout the summer, and now we’re focusing on the interior. Probably the major things going on now are a lot of framing inside, and our drywall work is just starting to begin,” Tolley said. “Mechanical systems have been a priority. They’re still being worked on, and now we’re bringing in a few other vendors to start running a lot of the cabling for the data infrastructure, the voice infrastructure, the security system, camera systems and that sort of thing.”
The audio, lighting and video installed will be cutting-edge, which Tolley said should allow the theater to be very competitive as many venues require sound equipment to be procured through a subcontractor for each show.
In addition to technological upgrades, the theater now has expanded dressing rooms and green room space that helps to make the performance area more functional.
“One of the challenges a lot of historical theaters have is that there’s no real place to put a lot of the extra set pieces and things like that, so it limits you from a production standpoint,” Tolley said. “With us, we’ll now have expanded wing space so we can vie for larger acts, acts that come in with larger equipment, and certainly having a loading dock now will also assist in that as well.”
The new addition at the rear of the building, formerly part of Wholesale Tire, will also house an educational center on the second floor.
“We’ve seen a huge need, obviously, for educational components in the theater, and we want that to be a huge part of what we do,” Tolley said. “That will be a space that we can hold classes, we can hold rehearsals, continuing education seminars and a lot of different things relating to theater.”
Since accepting his position as executive director in July, Tolley said he’s spoken with many theater-goers who travel to Charleston and Pittsburgh to attend various performances, also requiring money to be spend on hotels and dining.
“We see (the Robinson Grand) as a very regional theater. Immediately it affects the citizens of Clarksburg and gives opportunities there, but throughout the county and surrounding counties as well,” he said. “It certainly will be great to have something this close that you can go attend and be able to stay in your hometown.”