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Take a comfy seat: toilet troubles spur full-on renovation of Dupont's neighborhood theatre

It all started with the restrooms.

Mark Rhea, producing artistic director for Keegan Theatre, an intimate 114-seat theatre in Dupont, says that the former girl's-school gymnasium where the company performs has never quite been adequate. "If you're watching a show with 100-plus people, which we seem to have these days--which is great--you come out during intermission and you have to go to the toilet. And there's two toilets for 100-plus people." That's it.

So in 2010, an anonymous theatre fan who was sick of the situation decided to take a load off Rhea's mind. She said she'd donate whatever it took to make the bathrooms better.

But, Rhea says, "it became very obvious as we started talking about renovating the bathrooms that it was going to take a lot more than just that to make the building a successful venue." Their space had no cast green room or dressing room, no rehearsal space, and little storage. The patron agreed to donate enough to make it all happen--the plan calls for all these things, going from the theatre's current 3,500-square-foot space to over 6,000, making it ADA accessible, and adding a new, glass-clad vestibule.

But Keegan first had to buy the building, at 1742 Church St NW, from their landlord. "We closed June 22, 2013--my birthday," Rhea says. And now the theatre is fundraising to make up the difference--the donor ended up paying for the cost of the building, but renovations will be another $1.5 million.

The "In Good Company' fundraising campaign has typical naming opportunities available (sponsors can purchase the rights to name the lobby, the stage, the elevators, etc--the mezzanine lobby is already spoken for), as well as an unconventional tactic: for $100, patrons can be part of a video installation that will be installed in the lobby and show pictures of fans. And in homage to how the project began, sponsors can even name a toilet. "It's sort of a high-end---well, it's not the highest-end naming opportunity," Rhea says.

Keegan Theatre's recent shows have garnered critical praise. The company's latest show, The Best Man by Gore Vidal, opens Saturday.

Read more articles by Rachel Kaufman.

Rachel is the managing editor of Elevation D.C. She also covers tech, business and science for publications nationwide. She lives in Brookland.
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