William & Mary’s new lease on the Kimball Theatre goes into effect today, and the calendar is already filling with events.
The first, a Shakespearean theatre performance by the Traveling Players Ensemble, is scheduled to take place Aug. 8. Other groups that have confirmed upcoming events at the Kimball include the Williamsburg Symphony Orchestra, Opera in Williamsburg, James City County Rotary, Institute for Dance, Williamsburg Classic Swing Orchestra, the Blind & Dirty Band, Don Irwin, the W&M Botetourt Chamber Singers and Good Shot Judy.
William & Mary announced July 18 the decision to lease the Kimball from the Colonial Williamsburg Foundation for three-and-a-half years with options for annual renewals. In the two weeks since the signing of the lease, the university has made the successful transfer of the theatre a priority.
“This space provides us interim instructional and performance space while Phi Beta Kappa Hall renovations are underway,” said Sam Jones, senior vice president for finance and administration, adding the university’s intent is not to determine or limit the long-term use of the Kimball Theatre. “The lease period provides time for the community to develop a long-term plan for the theatre’s viability.”
For years, both community and W&M groups have relied on the space for performances, film festivals and other events. For example, the Department of Music has depended on the Kimball for mid-term and final concerts for several of its credit-bearing classes along with other special events, including portions of the Ewell Concert Series, student recitals and performances by artists-in-residence.
William & Mary is planning an extensive renovation of Phi Beta Kappa Hall beginning in the summer of 2018. While the university is still developing plans for the use of Kimball during that time and looking to balance community and W&M needs, the venue will be used for theatre instruction and performances during the renovation of PBK.
Currently, there are no plans for the Kimball to be operated as a movie theatre, but special events held there – such as film festivals – may include screenings.
Mariellynn Maurer, director of Conference Services, has been reaching out to groups who had signed contracts or confirmed dates through Colonial Williamsburg for the use of the theatre before it was announced July 6 that it would be closing. Maurer said that she and her colleagues in Conference Services have been able to honor all of those previous commitments and are in the process of generating new contracts with each of the groups.
“We wanted to pick up where Colonial Williamsburg left off and keep moving forward,” she said. “Right now, the focus is on getting it open and bringing back groups that have traditionally performed there.
“The folio of users includes such a wide range of people, from a lecturer to a vocal performer to a full orchestra to a youth orchestra … and every group needs something a little different, so as we begin to learn the groups and what they need, the Kimball unfolds itself to us a little more and we’re able to see some additional things we need to consider.”
Some of the operational aspects of the theatre are still being settled, such as the use of concessions, ushers and the box office.
Upcoming event information, ticketing and facility rental details are outlined on the newly launched kimball.wm.edu. Final arrangements for the box office are still pending, but patrons may purchase tickets online or directly from groups who opt to sell tickets themselves elsewhere or at the door.
The Kimball Theatre Facebook page has also been relaunched and is being closely monitored to assist with questions and inquiries.
Although Maurer has been active in the community for years, working on the new lease for the Kimball has given her a greater appreciation for the theatre and the community’s many connections to it.
“It’s just a reminder of how a community is knit together,” Maurer said. “It’s been really fun for me to see that unfolding and to have people call and share not just their memories but their relationships to the theatre. Maybe they don’t perform there annually, but everybody has a story that links them in some way or shape to Kimball.”