Tuesday, March 21, 2000

Temple to get new life in arts

Enquirer Contributor

        MIDDLETOWN — A 19th century downtown landmark is getting ready to stage a comeback.

Michael Coyan is one of the driving forces behind the rehabilitation of the Masonic Temple in downtown Middletown.
(Michael E. Keating photo)
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        Middletown's Masonic Temple, built in 1883 and unused for the past 20 years, is being renovated to house a professional theater company and school.

        Backers said the building is perfect for the new Actors' Repertory Theatre and the location will draw people from the Cincinnati-Dayton region.

        Arts in Middletown Director Michael Coyan said the building is in good shape and “this is basically just a refurbishing job. We're cleaning and patching and painting.”

        The second floor will be divided into classrooms for a performance academy. Students of all ages will learn movement, voice and other skills. The third floor consists of two performance spaces.

        “We'll have a six-show season on the main stage and be able to present experimental theater and contemporary dance in the smaller space,“ Mr. Coyan said.

        Actors' Repertory Theatre will open in October. Classes will begin after Labor Day.

        Young actors are spending weekends mopping, patchingand sanding, preparing walls and woodwork for a fresh coat of paint.

        “We couldn't do it without these young people,” Mr. Coyan said. They will form the instructional staff for the performance academy. “They come from theater programs all over the region.”

        Steve Walker; his wife, Debbie; and Mr. Coyan are supervising and helping to bankroll the project.

        “We're trying to repair 20 years of empty,” Mr. Walker said. “I can remember coming into this lodge 30 years ago. It was really rich. We aim to take it back to that splendor.”

        The former Masonic Temple is part of a building largely occupied by First National Bank. Building owner Perry Thatcher approached Mr. Coyan several months ago for suggestions about uses for the vacant space.

        “This has all tumbled together in the last three months,” Mr. Coyan said.

        Mr. Walker and Mr. Coyan said the project will have a positive impact on downtown Middletown. They point to increased interest and investment in the area, as well as a growing market for the arts in Butler and Warren counties.

        “I've gotten calls from tour bus companies already wanting to book matinee packages with us,“ Mr. Coyan said. “It's incredible.”


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