- The Washington Times - Tuesday, December 2, 2003

Make way for the bulldozers. A competition of sorts is under way to see who among local performing arts institutions can raise the most money for the best and biggest new or enlarged theater, with or without local government’s help.

Some aren’t content merely with one venue but, following the custom of Arena Stage years back, require two or more to ensure artistic and commercial flexibility. The stakes are high. Capital campaigns are going national in some cases.

Shakespeare Theatre seems to want to top them all, with plans announced last year for a new $75 million 850-seat theater on F Street NW between Sixth and Seventh that will operate concurrently with its present 450-seat Lansburgh building two blocks away at 450 Seventh St. NW. Details are expected to be made public tomorrow in the presence of Mayor Anthony A. Williams, Delegate Eleanor Holmes Norton and District Council members for what is being called — all modesty aside — “a project that will profoundly impact the future of the performing arts in Washington, D.C.”

Doubtless, it’s a way of raising Shakespeare’s profile both nationally and internationally since Artistic Director Michael Kahn previously said he was hoping to extend the vision of classical theater well into the 21st century. Architects for the new theater, which is to open in 2005, are A.J. Diamond and Donald Schmitt of Toronto. Cultural tourism may be hitting the big leagues, but it still has a long way to go to catch up with crowds that pack nearby MCI Center for pop-music concerts and sports.

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