18-02-28 Argyros theater@.jpg

An architectural rendering shows the interior of the main performance space in The Argyros performing arts center, configured in a 300-seat “traditional theater” layout.

Across the street from where more than 300,000 pounds of newly delivered structural steel silently rested under gently falling snow, Sun Valley Performing Arts board member Tim Mott was in the Limelight Hotel, describing the nonprofit group’s vision for that steel to dozens of donors and interested attendees.

    Currently little more than a cavity in the ground ringed by vertical steel beams, a world-class performing arts center will materialize this year on the lot at the east corner of the intersection of Main and First streets, Mott, who is vice chairman of the board, told the crowd.

    “It’s been a frustrating time, because there’s a tremendous amount of really important work being done, but it was being done in the ground, so nobody was seeing it,” Mott joked at the public presentation, held Thursday evening.

    By this week, he said, “we’ll have a three-dimensional space—we’ll have a box defined” with vertical beams on four sides and roof joists across the top.

    The recent physical changes on the lot that formerly housed the nexStage Theatre are the culmination of about two years of planning, Mott said, beginning with a meeting at the now-razed theater to discuss “if we were to rebuild the nexStage, what would the program be? What would the building be like?”

    The group decided then that they wanted “a world-class performing arts venue” that would be “a new hub of cultural, educational and social activity” in Ketchum.

    “Our goals and our aspirations haven’t changed. The original concept really hasn’t changed that much,” Mott said. “This is going to be a lasting legacy for generations to come.”

    Currently, Mott said, $11 million has been donated or pledged, covering construction expenses. The land was purchased for $1.5 million in 2002. What remains, he said, is about $3.5 million for the theatrical equipment that will go in the structure, which he said will be branded as simply “The Argyros.”

    “Sun Valley Performing Arts will remain the legal name [of the nonprofit], but it’ll kind of fade into the background—you won’t see it anywhere,” he said.

    Equipment in The Argyros will include a Constellation sound system from Meyer Sound, which Mott deemed the premier sound system for a performing arts center. He said the system employs overhead microphones to avoid requiring each performer or their instrument to be outfitted with a mic, though individuals and instruments can have their own mics if they choose. The system, he said, exceeds any other system in offering performers monitor sound that almost exactly replicates what the audience hears.

    The Constellation system, Mott said, can be configured to mimic other spaces, making The Argyros sound like an outdoor concert stadium for one performance, a cathedral for another.

    “This will be the only installation of this kind of sound system in the Rocky Mountains,” and one of only four in the Western U.S., he said. “There’s two in San Francisco and one in Vancouver.”  

    “Throughout the entire space, we’re going to have the absolute best theatrical equipment that you can put in a space today,” he added. “We think this will be a model for other communities in terms of this is what you can do with this kind of space and this kind of budget.”

    With bridge financing for equipment in place, Mott said, “we will open—no matter what—we will open on Friday, Nov. 23.”

    When it’s complete, The Argyros will stand three stories tall on the north side of the Best Western Kentwood Lodge and Wrap City café. With the building set back 55 feet from Main Street, visitors will cross a concrete plaza before entering a lobby in the front. The lobby will house concessions and a ticket booth. A small “studio theater” comprises most of the space directly above the lobby, along with the building’s main bathrooms, and there is no third floor above the studio.

The back end of the building will house three floors of dressing rooms, storage and offices, and a small basement houses storage, an electrical room and a catering kitchen.

“There’s no provision for a resident company,” Mott said. “We want to operate with a small, lean staff, and one of the ways we’re going to make that happen is by not having space for many people [in the office].”

    Sandwiched between the back offices and front lobby and studio is the bulk of the structure: a single three-story-high performance space with a second-floor mezzanine gallery, a modular stage and an overhead “tension grid” of cables for hanging drapes.

    With fully retractable inclined seating that collapses into a small space at the back of the room, Mott said, the space can be configured to hold up to 450 people viewing a small stage—such as for an individual speaker or a panel discussion—up to 300 people for a traditional theater performance with a large stage, or about 150 people for a small “black-box” theater production. When the seats are fully retracted, he said, the space has a level floor and can be configured for banquets or cabaret-style performances of varying capacity.

“It gives you the ability to have traditional seating, but on the other hand, get rid of all the seating and go to a totally flat floor,” he said.

    Attendees at the presentation gasped and shared hushed but positive comments with each other when Mott said the modular stage—made of 3-by-6-foot sections that can lay flat on the floor or be raised up to 2 feet high in 6-inch increments—would be a wood-sprung dance surface.

    “That’s a ballet-quality floor,” he said.

    During a Q&A at the end of the presentation, Mott said The Argyros, which will eventually have about 10 full-time employees, will operate on a rental model, financially, but that a rate sheet hasn’t been finalized.

    “The typical model for a performing arts center is [that] it’s two-thirds earned income and one-third contributed income,” he said.

    On Tuesday, Sun Valley Performing Arts announced that industry veteran Greg Phillips will serve as interim executive director of The Argyros for the inaugural 2018-19 season.

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