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Next Stage

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What perhaps doesn’t appeal to some sensibilities, however, might attract an entirely different audience: children.

Tracey Zeeck, an Oklahoma City public relations professional, said she and others have banded together in an attempt to repurpose the building, located at 400 W. Sheridan, as a children’s museum.

Designed by John Johansen, Stage Center opened in 1970 as the home of the Mummers Theatre, and the building’s design won awards and architectural accolades. In 1992 the performance venue underwent a $2 million renovation headed by local architect Rand Elliott.

By 2010, Stage Center was being operated by the Arts Council of Oklahoma
City and the city. That same year, however, the building’s basement
flooded and the contents of the affected area were lost.

The
following year, the Arts Council turned the building over to the
Oklahoma City Community Foundation, owner of the land on which the
building sits. The construction of the Devon tower across the street has
renewed interest in what to do with the beleaguered building.

The local chapter of the American Institute of Architects
issued a request for proposals — due Feb. 29 — for the purchase or lease
and redevelopment of the iconic building.

Zeeck said the RFP motivated her to put forth the idea of a children’s museum.

Although
Oklahoma City has some museums that focus on kids, such as Science
Museum Oklahoma, Zeeck said there is not a true children’s museum that
allows for open-ended play. She added that Stage Center’s unique design
and location — near the newly renovated Myriad Gardens, Devon tower and
the future downtown elementary school — make for a perfect fit.

“This is really the last
chance to save that space,” Zeeck said. “We’re not thinking small at any
level.” Paired with architects and designers from Rees Associates in
Oklahoma City, Zeeck said she and others
who share a similar concept for the building have received the blessing
of Johansen and his son, who is also an architect.

The
group is expected to unveil its design for the building today, and is
still actively seeking funding. Zeeck said she also is working to get a
nonprofit organization established for the project.

“We’re
trying to tell a story on that street corner, where we’re saying we
can’t keep taking pages out of Oklahoma City’s book to write new
chapters, because you will never be able to read the story again,” Zeeck
said.

But even if
Zeeck’s proposal for Stage Center isn’t accepted, she said she hopes to
establish a children’s museum elsewhere in Oklahoma City.

“I don’t want it to die [if] Stage Center dies,” she said.

Photo by Mark Hancock

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