Wednesday, December 12, 2007

Caldwell's Castle

Caldwell has opened its new theater in Boca Raton. Named for their chief benefactress' late husband, The Count de Hoernle Theatre is a veritable palace. It's a major step up for one of the region's major theatre companies.

The company was created in 1975 at the suggestion of the man who invented the rubber dustpan (and founder of Rubbermaid), James R. Caldwell. A retiree to Boca Raton, he persuaded the College of Boca Raton (now known as Lynn University) to let the company use its small auditorium, some office space, and 6 dorm rooms. He also urged his fellow Boca Ratonians (Ratonites?) to throw in their support. Within four years, the "Caldwell Playhouse" had 3,000 subscribers and won its first Carbonnell Award.
"To finally have our own home, even though we have to pay for it, gives us stability,"
- Michael Hall
I remember their second space, located in a downtown shopping mall. The developers of Mizner Park helped the company set up its third "temporary" home in the Levitz Furniture Plaza. The plan was to continue producing plays - and raising funds - until the new mall was finished and the theater could move in. That never happened, and they remained in their "temporary" home for nearly two decades.
"...suddenly, we're not hidden away in a crumbling mall."
- Michael Hall
Their new space is their own building. After 32 years of making do, Artistic Director Michael Hall made sure his company's new home would have room to prepare and to perform, and clear sightlines for the audiences to see the show.

As he told the Sun-Sentinel's Mary Damiano, "That was the most important thing to me. I told them I would sacrifice more seats for total visibility."

Of his larger space; a stage with full wing space and plenty of headroom, and a rehearsal hall larger than many area theaters: "It will allow me to consider plays that require a two- or three-story set, plays that have moving scenery."

Did he worry about the larger space? He told Jan Sjostrom of the Palm Beach Daily News that "It's absolute fear to build a building this big, with all the things that are required by code and all the things that suddenly pop up that no one told you about. Suddenly, the seats came, and it was like this is a dream come true."

The first review is in; Christine Dolen attended the opening of their premier production of John Patrick Shanley's Doubt. Of the Caldwell's new home, she wrote:
"The Count de Hoernle Theatre is the Caldwell's fourth home, increasing its seating capacity by 27 (though the 332-seat space feels much larger). Each of its previous theaters opened with a comedy; Doubt, though it sometimes inspires been-to-Catholic-school laughter, showcases the company's formidable dramatic chops with layered work from its powerful cast."
- Christine Dolen, Miami Herald
Doubt plays through January 6th. Tickets available online or by phone.

Caldwell Theatre Company
7873 N. Federal Highway
Boca Raton, FL 33487

Box Office (561) 241-7432 or Toll Free (877) 245-7432

Additional Stuff:
A video of the opening ceremony is available at the Boca Raton News website.
A slideshow of the space is available at the Palm Beach Post site.

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