For­mer the­ater di­rec­tor an­nounces down­town arts venue

Cecil Whig - - LOCAL - By CH­ERYL MATTIX



— 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.

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