A Diamond Anniversary -- in the Rough

The Beck Center for the Arts is 75. But not everyone is celebrating.

Along with its home city of Lakewood, the center has changed and aged over the years. The roof leaks. The main theater has become too big and the studio theater too small.

To keep up creative momentum, the Beck Center will have to overhaul its current site — or more controversially, move. Beck Center board chair Fred Unger says building a new site would cost around $20 million. But it would be easier than renovating, which would mean closing for a while.

Crocker Park developer Bob Stark has approached the board about relocating to Westlake, where the center could attract a new crowd and, possibly, more funding.

But some insist the Beck Center belongs in Lakewood, where it brings shows with mass appeal, such as Tony-award-winning “Urinetown,” while still reaching out to those who want a more cutting-edge experience. It has arts therapy programs, dance classes, camps and a music and theater conservatory for teens.

“We have to look at the market for the theater and education programs we have and where they would be the most effective,” says Unger. “We also need to see what kind of financial packages we can put together.”

As it studies whether to stay in Lakewood, the Beck Center’s penchant for risk plays on. Its 75th season opens Sept. 15 with “Porgy and Bess,” its first opera ever.

Visit www.beckcenter.org or call (216) 521-2540 for more information.

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