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Doug Smith Performance Center Opens Doors
By Charlotte Kovalchuk
Sounds of children dancing and singing fill the new Doug Smith Performance Center, sounds Doug has been waiting to hear ever since he donated $1 million in 2015 to see this “Georgetown jewel” come to fruition.
The three-story performance and education center quietly opened its doors June 1 with summer camps at Second and Rock streets. The 14,500-square-foot building will serve more than 4,000 students a year and features a 200-plus seat performance space, seven classrooms, eight restrooms, storage and wardrobe spaces, a teachers’ lounge, dance studio with a professional dance floor, rehearsal space and an outdoor terrace for events and special classes.
Doug is eager for the end of COVID-19 so the community can check out the new center. “I’m proud of it and I know Georgetown is going to be proud of it as well,” he said.
After so much time and work – fundraising began in 2015 – Executive Artistic Director Ron Watson and other Palace staff had envisioned a grand opening that didn’t come to be.
“It’s anti-climactic. It’s been such a long journey for us,” he said. “We’ve dreamed and wanted this for so long, to have a space dedicated for our children. It was supposed to be a big event, but unfortunately with the pandemic, there’s no way we can safely do anything like that.”
Still, he and Doug are delighted to see the center provide Georgetown youth with theater education, and more importantly, life skills.
“It doesn’t really matter whether and of these kids go on to have careers in theater,” Ron said. “They learn so much – confidence, the ability to stand up for themselves. They make lifelong friends. It’s so important.”
Doug, a chemical engineer and “not a right-brained artist,” was inspired to donate $1 million for the center after seeing the need for a children’s space. The Palace Theatre has offered a kids program for nearly 20 years but outgrew its space in 2015. Doug noticed the classes taught more than just dancing, singing and acting. Students also learned self-discipline, self-assurance and teamwork, traits he said are needed for success in life.
“Whether you’re going to be an engineer, lawyer, doctor, teacher, whatever you’re going to be, you need to be able to communicate with people and express yourself well. That’s what we teach at the Palace,” he said. “Not a lot of kids will be professional performers. Some will be Broadway stars, maybe two or three, but that’s not my focus. My focus is on making better citizens and more accomplished people.”
Even though the center is up and running, it still needs help with funding, a need that’s more critical than ever as the Palace has had virtually no income since the curtail fell on its last performance in March.
“Like every other arts organization, to keep the Palace alive and this building going, we need help, desperately,” Ron said.
To learn more and to sign up for classes, visit www.georgetownpalace.com.