Amelia Theater Looking to State; the Playhouse Is among Groups Hopeful for Cash from Florida's Legislature

Article excerpt

Byline: ANNE MARIE APOLLO

Now, 25 years after its first production, the theater is poised to hit the big time.

The playhouse is one of five arts institutions in four counties in Northeast Florida in line for a share of $21.7 million in state cultural facilities grants. The Florida Arts Council listed 50 projects, ranked by priority, and included three of the five local projects in the top 15.

Until the Legislature votes, there is no way of knowing how many of the projects will get money, if any. Last year's list was funded in its entirety.

Topping the list is a grant to The Cummer Museum of Art and Gardens for the second phase of a project to cover its courtyard. The second phase of a Jacksonville Zoo botanical garden project ranked third. Both are recommended to get $500,000 grants, a repeat feat for the Jacksonville landmarks.

Each was awarded a cultural facilities grant in the last round of state funding, with the Cummer getting $500,000 to expand its women's club and the zoo receiving the same amount for the first phase of its botanical garden.

At No. 28 on the list, the St. Johns County Cultural Council was recommended to receive $495,160 for a renovation of the cultural arts center at St. Augustine Beach. Green Cove Springs came in at No. 40.

It's looking for $112,000 for the renovation of the T.R. Marie Arts & Cultural Center at Augusta Savage Square.

The Amelia Community Theatre is tied for 13th place in the rankings. That's high enough for its leadership to hope to break ground on the new building in the fall.

A capital campaign already has brought in $800,000. If the $500,000 in state money comes through, Graham Thomas, the theater's chairman of the expansion project, estimates it will need an additional $300,000 to $500,000 to complete the work.

The expansion has been in the works for years, said theater director and founding member Linda McClane.

The theater moved into its existing quarters in the late 1980s, retrofitting the old offices of the Nassau County School Board to an intimate space that seats about 80.

Later, the theater bought land around the building, its supporters dreaming of the things often seen as basic for a production - good acoustics, comfier chairs or a stage with wings.

Now it looks forward to getting all of those things and doubling the size of the audience. …