After bouncing around to four different locations in the last six years, Rubber City Theatre staff is thrilled that the company is moving back downtown, to a location it plans to call home for the long term.

The small professional theater plans to move by June from its current Salvation Army-owned "Fort Romig" location on Romig Road in Akron to a new venue being developed at WhiteSpace Creative, 243 Furnace St. The location is down the street from the Northside entertainment district and close to other downtown amenities.

"We have finally found the new home with a cool atmosphere that we've been searching for," said Dane Leasure, theater founder and artistic director.

Rubber City, which has previously operated at the University of Akron, Summit Artspace and the Well CDC downtown, had produced shows in partnership with the Salvation Army at Fort Romig for about 15 months. The Salvation Army also runs an urban farm education program for children in the warehouse-style space in southwest Akron.

Rubber City started looking for a new home about a year ago when the theater learned that the Salvation Army's Romig building must become licensed for childcare by the state, which would require all theater personnel who could come in contact with the children to get background checks and undergo state training.

At its new downtown location, Rubber City will have an 80- to 90-seat theater space. The buildout, being done by WhiteSpace, will include a three-quarter thrust stage, a scene shop, insulated sound booth, two dressing rooms and restrooms for performers (one with a shower), patron restrooms and an office space.

"We just will be in a real theater space now. It's a space that's being built as a theater," said Leasure, whose company has previously performed in classrooms and other shared spaces.

WhiteSpace marketing agency's offices moved into its renovated three-story 1893 building — which is on the National Register of Historic Places — in early 2017 after a $2.5 million restoration project. Rubber City Theatre will lease 3,500 feet on the main floor of the large, adjoining six-floor, concrete-front building that was built in the early 1930s.

"I think that the vision that we have for the space is a creative hub of sorts," said Keeven White, president and CEO of WhiteSpace Creative, who hopes to also kick off plans for artists' lofts on floors above the theater later this year. 

"If we could have different kinds of creative activities going on and there are people crossing in common space, it kind of enhances one another," he said.

The WhiteSpace complex formerly housed the Akron Soap Co., Pioneer Cereal Co. and Pockrandt Paint Co. The total floor space of the joined buildings is 65,000 square feet. The historic brick building also houses Akron Recording Co. in its basement, while a wine distributor occupies the ground level of the 1930s building.

"We've got the recording studio in and if we can get this theater in, the revenue from those things kind of help to spur future development, so it all builds on one another," White said.

Rubber City Theatre plans to move into its new space for the opening of “Shakesqueer,” a project inspired by Shakespeare’s “The Taming of the Shrew,” June 7. The nonprofit, which operates on an annual budget of just over $100,000, is now in the midst of a $55,000 capital campaign to purchase chairs and sound equipment, and to upgrade its lighting equipment with LEDs. For more information, see www.rubbercitytheatre.com. 

Leasure said the growing theater, which is working toward becoming a fully professional Equity company, is looking forward to its audiences having the opportunity to have dinner, see a show and get drinks with the new space's proximity to businesses at Northside and nearby.

White agrees.

"If there's some viable entertainment and cultural things to do here, it can help spur more development between us and what's happening at Northside already," White said. "I think it can be quite an entertainment zone down here."

 

Arts writer Kerry Clawson may be reached at 330-996-3527 or kclawson@thebeaconjournal.com. Follow her at @KerryClawsonABJ or www.facebook.com/kclawsonabj.