Gift to Hilton Head Prep will expand arts programs for school and community

From the Island Packet:

Story by Sarah Bowman

Hilton Head Prep now owns Main Street Theatre through donation.

Hilton Head Preparatory School received the largest donation in its history last week — one that could mean major changes not only for the school but for the island’s arts community as well.

The school now owns the Main Street Theatre, a nearly $2-million gift made to it by James W. Bradshaw of Hilton Head Island and Carlos E. Evans of Charlotte, according to a school release.

Bradshaw and Evans owned the theatre for more than 25 years, according to longtime friend JR Richardson, who also is Trustee Emeritus at Hilton Head Prep.

All three hope the change will breathe new life into the theatre and bolster the school’s arts programs, Richardson said.

School headmaster Jon Hopman agreed.

“We are very excited about this opportunity because it will give us the space we need to showcase our arts at Prep and be able to have some elbow room and a place to call home,” Hopman said. “Expanding both our arts programs and arts in the community goes hand in hand, I think.”

Hilton Head Prep plans to use the venue for its upper, middle and lower school productions in addition to hosting several music concerts and events throughout the year. It has previously held productions in its gym or rented out space from other theaters around the island, including the Hilton Head Island High School’s Seahawk Cultural Center.

The school said it also is committed to promoting arts within the community.

The theatre has been home to performances by the Main Street Youth Theatre for years, and the school wants to continue the youth program, Richardson said.

While the details of scheduling have not been ironed out, he said the school plans to allow the program to continue renting the facility and could might let other organizations to use it.

“The reason that the theatre hasn’t quite worked where it is and has struggled to be all that it wanted is because of the multiplex theatres around there,” Richardson said. “But having our arts there along with the Youth Theatre’s and any others will be a good working relationship that we will be able to add to the value of the island’s arts.”

Hilton Head Prep will now be responsible for routine maintenance and operation costs of the theatre — the school did not have a cost estimate Tuesday.

However, school director of finance and development Margot Brown said she believes much of those expenses will be offset by no longer having to rent rehearsal or performance spaces.

Additionally, many major projects such as replacing the roof and repairing air conditioning units were completed before the donation, Richardson said.

The school plans to begin using the theatre as soon as possible, though its upcoming February production will still be held in the Seahawk Cultural Center because of the short notice, Hopman said.

“By having the Main Street Theatre, which is well known on island, hopefully we can draw more people from the community to our performances,” he said. “And more generally, we hope to put a little life back into the theatre and make more people will want to use that facility and add to the arts on the island.”