Arts & Culture

Casa Mañana adding cabaret theater as part of expansion

Casa Mañana last underwent a major renovation in 2003.
Casa Mañana last underwent a major renovation in 2003. Ft. Worth Star-Telegram

Casa Mañana Theatre is expanding. In March, Fort Worth’s oldest theatrical organization will break ground on capital improvements that include a small cabaret theater, new administrative offices, a storage facility for costumes and more.

The construction project, expected to last through December 2017, will cost about $800,000, Casa Mañana President and Executive Producer Wally Jones told the Star-Telegram on Wednesday. About half the funding, up to $409,000, will come from the city of Fort Worth (but not, he clarified, from the Arts Council of Fort Worth). Of the remainder, about $300,000 has been raised through private donations, Jones said. Casa will continue fundraising for the remaining balance, he said.

“Have you seen our current offices?” Jones said, referring to the cluster of cubicles in the original lobby of the famous geodesic dome structure. “There’s not adequate electricity, lighting or HVAC. We’re running out of room. Our producers circle, where donors come before the show, we have a draped-off area in the [current] lobby.”

Casa said in a news release Wednesday that the project will be designed by Bennett, Benner Partners of Fort Worth. The new plans include:

▪ An addition on the west side of the dome that will house a 2,100-square-foot office area and conference room.

▪ In the driveway area on the southwest side, a 1,500-square-foot facility will be built to store costumes, sets and props.

▪ The rehearsal space behind the dome will remain.

▪ Current office space (the theater’s original lobby) will become the VIP donors’ lounge, additional instruction space and cabaret theater with 50 to 60 seats. It will include a small catering kitchen.

“In the cabaret space, there will be a small stage with sound and lighting system,” Jones said. “We have to have a small season, with one- or two-person shows, cabarets, readings and workshops.”

The theater last underwent a major renovation in 2003. In a controversial move, it was converted from an in-the-round performance space to a modified proscenium thrust theater, with a semicircular audience area. A lobby on the Lancaster Avenue side of the building was added, and the offices were moved to the old lobby.

In recent years, as Casa’s programs have experienced “exponential growth,” Jones said, including increased numbers of season ticket holders for its Broadway and Children’s Theatre series and increased enrollment in its Performing Arts Conservatory programs.

“I am thrilled that Casa is in a position to expand,” Jones said in the news release. “These additions will not only increase our education initiatives but allow us to better serve the community of North Texas. We greatly appreciate the City of Fort Worth and our donors for recognizing the need for the arts and for the belief in the mission of Casa Mañana.”

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