First Look at Round House Theatre Renovation

First Look at Round House Theatre Renovation

The $9 million renovation includes improved acoustics and an expanded bar

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RH Lobby Small

The lobby sports an expanded bar

Photos by Leigh McDonald

Round House Theatre gave a first look Thursday at its newly minted $9 million renovation. Significant transformations include an expanded lobby bar and acoustic improvements to the theater.

“You had to strain to reach the back rows,” Artistic Director Ryan Rilette said. “We brought theater architects in for that, and then it became a bigger project.”

The theatre now seats 286 to 402 patrons. The first two rows and back row can be removed to make space for a larger stage. “You can put seats upstage, as well, for a more ‘theater in the round’ feel,” Rilette said.

The balcony was brought closer to the stage, and the solid footwall was replaced with metal cable for better visibility.

Rilette said he thinks the balcony seats are now the best in the house.

The narrow concession stand in the lobby has been extended into a wraparound bar, and now that the theater has a full liquor license, it can take advantage.

Theatre small
The theater was redesigned to improve acoustics and seat placement.

The theater staff hopes patrons will spend time at the lobby bar outside of intermission, including before and after shows. The theater hasn’t determined what time the bar will close.

Food and beverage manager Hudson Tang is developing menus themed around each show.

During the production of “Schoolgirls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play,” which opens Sept. 18, the bistro will serve West African food.

Basic staples, such as charcuterie boards and salads, will be sold throughout the season.

The box office also got an upgrade.

“It was fine before but it was more of a mid-’90s-bank feel because it was built as a bank in the mid ’90s,” Rilette said. The teller windows were removed to create a more open-concept space, which also allowed for the creation of office space above the ticket counter.

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The staff says the lobby bar will allow patrons to mingle with theater artists.

“A lot of things we’ve done in this space were inspired by other theaters,” said Managing Director Ed Zakreski, who cited Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre as a major influence.

London architectural and planning firm Charcoalblue designed the renovations.

Renovations were made possible by individual donations, as well as funding from Montgomery County and the state, Zakreski said.

The venue has been closed for renovations since Jan. 1 and will reopen to the public with an open house Saturday.

A ribbon ceremony kicks off the event at 11:30 a.m. There will be performances every 15 minutes until the main event at 6 p.m. — an inside look at “Schoolgirls; Or, The African Mean Girls Play,” with the directors, designers and cast members.

Activities for children will be held under a tent outside.

Leigh McDonald can be reached at

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The box office renovations include an added second-floor artistic suite.

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