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Demo Drama

Playhouse on the Square set to demolish neighboring antique mall.

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There's something going down in Midtown. On Friday, April 21st, at 4:30 p.m., students from the Memphis College of Art will break out their spray cans to spread graffiti across the hulking, abandoned antique mall at the northeast corner of Cooper and Union. At 5:30, anyone with access to paint -- and the urge to deface some hideous public property -- is encouraged to join the art party. Refreshments and snacks will be served across the street at Playhouse on the Square.

Early Saturday morning, the demolition crew will crank up their bulldozers, and the festivities at Playhouse will resume for those who want to celebrate the long-awaited destruction of a Midtown eyesore. In its place, a sign depicting Playhouse's new state-of-the-art theater, scheduled to open at the location in 2008, will be erected.

"We'd like to have the theater open by the beginning of the 2007 season, and if somebody gives us $8 million, we'll start digging tomorrow," says Playhouse on the Square's associate producer Michael Detroit, explaining that until more funds are raised, it's difficult to predict an opening date for the new theater.

"It's not like we're a cookie-cutter franchise that can go into a project knowing exactly how much everything is going to cost," he says.

After a year-and-a-half of fund-raising, Playhouse has half of the projected $15 million required for its new five-story flagship. In addition to a stage, the theater will include rehearsal spaces, a scene shop, a costume shop, and office space for other Memphis arts organizations.

"Playhouse has survived for 36 years, performing in renovated movie houses, and [technically speaking] I think we've maxed out what we can do," says Detroit. "We've hit that wall creatively. We have no wing space, no fly space, and no orchestra pit. We have no place to put in all of the technological things we'd like to do."

Once the new Playhouse on the Square facility has opened, the intimate Circuit Playhouse on Poplar Avenue will move to the current Playhouse facility on Cooper. The space that now houses Circuit will become a rental space like TheatreWorks as well as a dedicated stage for Playhouse on the Square's youth theater program.

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