When David Charles was preparing for the new school year, he was prepared for new classes, new students and new challenges — less so for a new theatre.
After decades of being home to musical and theatrical productions, Rollins College has demolished the Fred Stone Theatre. The school had discovered the structural damage in the building in the spring and determined it was no longer safe for use. It was officially torn down earlier this month.
“(The Fred Stone Theatre) was on its last legs for a while there,” said Charles, producing director of Rollins College Annie Russell theatre. “The hurricane season last year had some major storms come through, and we had just noticed some more cracks forming. So, facilities came out and made the call that they weren’t comfortable with classes or productions going on in that space. That was the final blow — figuratively, it was the big bad wolf.”
The theatre hosted a number of classes in its day — Charles said it often had classes starting as early as 8:30 a.m. and ending in the afternoon before being taken over for rehearsals and theatre practice until 10:30 p.m. It also hosted many of the college’s Second Stage series, the student-produced and directed shows, not to mention 30 or 40 improv plays.
It wasn’t the first Fred Stone building demolished at Rollins College, either. Charles said the building was originally the Winter Park Baptist Church that Rollins College purchased in 1961. It was called Bingham Hall and renamed the new Fred Stone building when the first facility was demolished because of electrical concerns in the early 1970s.
He plans for the new building — a custom-built location rather than a retrofitted church — to be more state-of-the-art with technology to prepare the students. Additional classroom spaces to accommodate more students are planned for the new space.
Until then, theatre students instead will use the Pioneer Hall, located at 203 E. Lyman Ave. and across from the SunTrust Parking Garage, as their base of operations for a few years.
The project is around six months into the design process and is currently out to bid for new architects. As of now, the college is planning on developing the new theatre in the exact place as the old one.
Rollins Communications Manager Jo Marie Hebeler said funding for the new theatre will come from donations and other financing options.
“We’re trying to find that happy compromise between what is budgeted and what we need; we’re in some of those tough discussions,” Charles said. “But we’re confident it will include, for a lack of a better term at the moment, the Fred Stone Building 3.0.”