Break a leg

Published 5:38 pm Wednesday, August 8, 2007

By Staff
In about three months, if the project remains on schedule, a new chapter in the history of the Turnage Theaters complex will be written.
It’s a long-awaited chapter.
On Nov. 3, the Turnage Theaters Foundation plans to reopen a major part of the Turnage complex, which has been undergoing rehabilitation. That day will be a proud one for the Turnage Theaters Foundation and a significant one for Washington and the region.
On Tuesday night, members of the Historic Downtown Washington Merchants Association were given tours of the area of the Turnage complex that’s being rehabilitated. John Vogt, executive director of the Turnage Theaters Foundation, told those members that bringing live performances back to the Turnage complex is more than just a historical and cultural milestone. It will be an economic milestone, Vogt said.
He’s right.
And it’s an economic opportunity that many people in the region should take advantage of, especially downtown merchants. Activities at the Turnage complex — whether they be live performances, movie screenings or events such as the display of the 2008 N.C. Waterfowl Conservation Stamp entries — will bring people to the city. Many of those people will spend money while in Washington. Those merchants — and the choice is up to them — who choose to open on Sunday afternoons will reap the benefits of Sunday performances at the Turnage.
As he discussed the future of the Turnage complex with the downtown merchants, Vogt revealed that, so far, about 70 live performances have been booked for 2008. As soon as possible, Vogt noted, the Turnage would like to host about 220 to 250 events, productions and other activities each year.
Perhaps an annual film festival in Washington, a festival that focuses on movies filmed in North Carolina, could be staged. Or perhaps the film festival could feature movies with other North Carolina connections. After all, Ava Gardner, Cecil B. DeMille and Sandra Bullock have North Carolina connections. DeMille lived in Washington. Gardner was born in North Carolina. Bullock attended East Carolina University.
Vogt also told the members of the merchants group that the Nov. 3 gala reopening will include performances staged by East Carolina University students, faculty and staff. The Turnage-ECU partnership holds promise for both entities and the region.
In May, Turnage and ECU officials met to discuss the ramifications of their partnership.
Ballard also said ECU wants to take eastern North Carolina into five directions. Those directions are 21st-century education, being a leadership university, building the economy of the eastern part of the state, health-care and medical innovation and the arts, culture and entertainment. Ballard said ECU’s partnership with the Turnage Theaters Foundation focuses on two of the five directions — economic development and culture. The chancellor said the partnership and a rehabilitated Turnage complex “adds to the cultural attractiveness of the area.”
When the curtain rises at the Turnage complex on Nov. 3, that curtain also rises for the stage known as economic and cultural opportunities in Washington and eastern North Carolina.
To a rehabilitated Turnage complex there is only one thing to say: Break a leg.