Former theater director announces downtown arts venue
— Less than three weeks after resigning as producing artistic director of the Milburn Stone Theatre, Lee Lewis has taken on a new role in the community.
“I’m so excited, I can barely sleep at night,” Lewis, who spent nearly 10 years at Cecil College’s theater, said Monday.
Lewis announced this week he will open “Showcase on Main” at Minihane’s Irish Pub in Elkton on April 22. The venture is in partnership with Denis and Ingrid Minihane, owners of the Elkton pub, and will become a nonprofit. “Showcase on Main” will feature live theater, comedy and concerts.
Although he knows what the first production will be, Lewis said he’s not ready to go public with it yet.
“Let’s just say, it’ll be very appropriate for a new venture,” Lewis said.
Lewis’ plans include utilizing the former dining room of the restaurant for his creative area.
“It’s a very flexible space,” said Lewis. He envisions different seating and stage area arrangements depending on the production – perhaps even a theater in the round.
He estimates the venue can seat up to 50 people.
“It will be an intimate, live theater experience,” Lewis said.
Tentatively, each production will air Friday and Saturday evenings for two or three consecutive week- ends, with the final performance attempting to coincide with the First Friday arts walk in downtown Elkton. On Sundays, Lewis said he hopes to conduct classes in theater and music for children.
“The weekend following the close of a production will be open for a cabaret series of events, fea- turing local artists and alternating between music and comedy,” Lewis said.
The Minihane family is hoping the new venture will become popular with customers and add to Elkton’s growing arts community.
“This building has such a rich history, and we are happy to share it with the community,” Ingrid Minihane said.
If successful, the Minihanes are considering renovating the second floor of their restaurant to provide a larger area for live productions.
“If we do that, we will install a separate entrance with stairs from the North Street side of the building,” Minihane said. Historically, the building had an entrance from North Street, but that was removed years ago.
Meanwhile, Lewis and the Minihanes are planning to host an outdoor “Festival of the Arts.” That event will probably take place in June in the outdoor seating area they’ve created off North Street. The outdoor seating area has a capacity of 60.
When Lewis announced his decision to resign from the Milburn Stone on March 8 on his Facebook page, he attributed the move to “creative differences.”
“I now find myself in a position where my vision for the future of theater is no longer aligned with the prevailing winds. In the face of those creative differences, I feel as though I have no other choice but to resign,” he wrote.
At that time, he offered no information about his future plans.
Lewis, who studied theater and directing at Towson University, was hired nearly 10 years ago as the technical director and resident designer of the North East theater. He became the leader of the theater in 2007.
Theater supporters have recognized Lewis for growing the theater in number and quality of shows under his leadership. Within a five-year span, Lewis moved the theater from producing about four shows a year to producing 10 in addition to special events.
With the Minihanes, Lewis hopes to stay similarly busy.
“I love new projects,” Lewis said, noting that he gets bored easily if he’s not being creative. “I think this project can really make the arts come alive in Elkton.”
Ingrid Minihane and Lee Lewis show off the second floor of Minihane’s Irish Pub in Elkton, which could become a venue for Showcase on Main, a new entertainment venture.