The curtain falls

Published 1:28 am Sunday, December 18, 2011

It ended with jaunty holiday tunes and the sounds of swing, with sustained applause and standing ovations, with a few tears.
The Turnage Theater went dark Saturday, following a Friday-night performance by the Tar River Swing Band.
The nonprofit Turnage Theaters Foundation had been struggling to pay its bills. With the economy still on the mend, and many past donors tapped out, the deficits became too great to sustain.
“The Turnage Theaters Foundation will be evaluating all alternatives for re-opening the theater,” reads a statement posted on the theater’s website. “However, there is no definitive plan for re-opening the theater and at this time it appears that ownership of the theater will be assumed by the banks holding the outstanding mortgage, which now stands at $960,000. The banks will then begin the process of finding a buyer for the theater.”
This concludes a more than 15-year-long odyssey that brought the once-dilapidated theater at 150 W. Main St. back to life through private and corporate contributions, and funding from state and local governments.
The theater reopened in November 2007, but, like some other facilities of its kind, couldn’t survive the fallout of the Great Recession.
“I think there’s an awful lot of hope that something will happen,” said Charles Smith, president of the foundation. “Nobody knows what or when or anything, but I think there’s a lot of optimism that something’s going to happen. So, we’ll see.”
The foundation will hold its annual meeting in January, and its board will talk more about tying up any lingering loose ends “so that everything has been concluded with as much grace as possible,” Smith said.
The foundation owns furniture and equipment housed in the Turnage and will make provisions for those items to be stored elsewhere, board members have reported.

Scotty Henley, executive director of the Turnage Theaters Foundation, prepares to deliver a farewell speech Friday night at the theater in Washington. The indefinite closure of the Turnage came Saturday, following a Friday performance by the Tar River Swing Band. (WDN Photo/Jonathan Clayborne)

The lighting, sound and digital projection equipment on site will remain with the theater.
Friday’s concert kicked off with an opening speech by Scotty Henley, executive director of the foundation. Friday was Henley’s last day on the job.
The audience broke into cheers and rose to its feet just after Henley stepped onstage — a sign of appreciation for the man many sources have said led the way in making the Turnage a more community-centered place.
“This is not a wake,” Henley told the wall-to-wall crowd. “We can call it an Irish wake if you want to, but we’re going to have a good time tonight.”
Henley thanked past and present board members, Turnage supporters and others for making possible his tenure as technical director and, later, executive director.
“I don’t know exactly what’s going to happen here,” he said. “I do know that it will be open again. It has to, you have to believe that. … Let’s keep that vision in front of us, work toward a common goal of reopening the Turnage.”
Then the band played.
The concert ended with “Auld Lang Syne.”
A number of spectators became part of the show, singing along as the band blew this final number.
“For auld land syne,” they sang, “for auld lang syne. We’ll take a cup of kindness yet, for auld lang syne.”
And the proverbial curtain fell, at least for now.