Saturday, August 17, 2013

Community Theatre of Greensboro’s new home gets the star treatment

Libby Langdom_2 main bloks
Posted: Saturday, August 17, 2013 6:30 am

Makeover maven Libby Langdon has redesigned interiors on “The Rachael Ray Show,” HGTV’s “Small Space, Big Style” and Fox’s “Design Invasion.”
  She has brought new life to spaces small and vast — from a tiny New York apartment she transformed in a day to an 8,000-square-foot home. But never has Langdon tackled a theater makeover. Until now.

The High Point native has created an interior redesign plan for the former Broach Theatre, bought by the Community Theatre of Greensboro last year and renamed the Starr Theatre.
“Although the performances here are incredibly entertaining, the interior decor is in desperate need of a revival — and not the theatrical kind,” Langdon said while visiting this week at the downtown theater at 520 S. Elm St.

CTG Executive Director Mitchel Sommers and Langdon’s mother, Mary Ann Luedtke, a CTG volunteer, recruited Langdon to come from New York to design the interior makeover.
Langdon volunteered her time and talent, as will much of the local team that will carry out her design over the next several weeks. Some materials have been donated; others were bought at cost. Work will start Monday, after CTG’s summer camp finishes its production of “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.”

Langdon’s plan calls for:

- A major facelift for the lobby, with new flooring, paint, concession stand and chandelier.
- Fresh paint, wall treatment and carpeting in the 160-seat theater.
- New flooring and paint in the kitchen.
- New flooring, paint and countertops in restrooms.
- New paint, countertops and chairs in the dressing room.
- New finish on wall sconces.

“I tried to envision how we could make it more stylish and elegant and comfortable and inviting, but do it on a budget,” Langdon said. Audiences might pick up decorating tips they can use at home, she said. The exterior of the historic building — constructed in the 1910s and 1920s as a Salvation Army mission — will get a facelift, too.

The green awning will go. Local sculptor Jim Gallucci will create a new marquee that announces the Starr Theatre, named for the late Bill Starr. Linda Starr, his widow, will throw its switch at a private grand opening on Sept. 27. In the alley next to the theater, Gallucci will create another sign and lights leading to Studio CTG, the Barbara and Herman Cone Jr. Family Education and Event Center.

A decorative feature inspired by CTG’s signature show, “The Wizard of Oz,” will run down the alley. The yellow brick wall will be inscribed with names of those who bought commemorative bricks for $250. The renovations, estimated to cost $50,000, will be financed by contributions to CTG’s ongoing
$2 million capital campaign. It provided CTG with money to buy and minimally renovate the building, expand its youth program and start an endowment fund. Sommers expresses awe that the 64-year-old nonprofit theater company finally has a home and that it soon will have a fresh look. He hopes it will attract ticket buyers and donors who support the theater at a time when it needs operating income. Without the help of Langdon and other volunteers, Sommers said, CTG could not afford the interior transformation.

“I think it’s going to transform us and this area of downtown,” Sommers said. Audiences can see the results of Langdon’s interior redesign during CTG’s public performances of “Smokey Joe’s Cafe” on Oct. 4-13.

Langdon grew up in High Point as Libby Luedtke (Langdon is her legal stage name) with parents Fran and Mary Ann Luedtke and three siblings, surrounded by the home furnishings industry. Mary Ann Luedtke helped to start High Point Community Theatre, where a young Libby gained acting experience. “The theater gave me a certain amount of confidence,” Langdon said. “It’s probably the reason I am doing what I do (on television) now. And I loved the camaraderie.” She moved to New York at age 16 to continue her modeling career while attending the Professional Children’s School and then the Fashion Institute of Technology. Gradually, she combined on-camera work with interior design. Recently, she filmed a new cable television series, “Daykeover with Libby Langdon,” in which she completely transforms a space in less than 12 hours. It is expected to air this fall on Cozi TV. She has designed a line of upholstered furniture for Braxton Culler in High Point.

Her mother’s recent volunteer work with CTG introduced Langdon to its downtown theater. Allen Broach had bought and renovated the former Salvation Army mission in the 1980s for his marketing-communications firm. For a quarter-century, the nonprofit Broach Theatre Company used its sanctuary as a stage. Nonprofit arts groups put their money into their art and often can’t afford renovations. But after many years of use, the theater needs a fresh look, Langdon said.
“Theaters are so important to keep communities vital and culture growing,” she said.
Fortunately, the theater’s 160 navy-blue upholstered seats are in good shape, so they will stay.
Ditto for the stage and its curtains. But theater walls — now turquoise above the chair rail and black paper taped over plywood below — need a new look, she said. She envisions new paint and a new wall treatment above the chair rail. “I am picking some neutrals and some things that will be beautiful, that they will want to live with for a long time,” she said. Langdon’s schedule won’t allow her to do the demolition and renovation herself. So local volunteers — led by Sheryl Miller, interior designer Iris Ben-Gal, contractor Joe Bauer and artist Victoria Carlin Milstein — will carry out her plans.

“We want people to say, ‘This is a gorgeous place, and that was a fantastic performance,’ ” Langdon said.