Communities Performing Arts

Diana Wortham Theatre Times Three? It’s The Next Stage

Diana Wortham Theatre: The Next Stage

Architect sketch of the courtyard entrance

One of Asheville’s most active performing arts venues is preparing to put on an act that is sure to amaze and delight audiences old and new. Over the next few years, Diana Wortham Theatre is going to add not one, but two new stages. In February, it rolled out a public campaign, The Next Stage, to raise the final $300,000 of a $3.1 million goal to dramatically reshape the theatre into a facility with three distinct performance venues.

“We are asking the community to invest in this campaign to transform not only our physical campus into a center for the performing arts, but also to expand the way we reach new and existing audiences,” says board president Hardy Holland. “Through major gifts, The Next Stage has already raised $2.8 million of the $3.1 million towards our goal of energizing performing and cultural arts in Asheville with an expanded threevenue facility.”

Major construction is slated to begin by the end of this year with local architecture firm Clark Nexsen at the helm. In addition to a build-out of a new black box Forum Theatre and a new flexible, multi-use Studio Theatre, the campaign will also fund a refurbished main theatre and enhanced amenities and services throughout the complex.

Though already serving approximately 10,000 children each year, the theatre looks to increase the number of events for children and families by 250 percent to 75 events per year and total audience attendance by 60 percent to more than 80,000 patrons. Completion of The Next Stage will allow this new center for the performing arts to be active day and night, bringing artists, students and audiences together in a supportive environment to learn and celebrate creative expression through performance.

“Over the past 25 years, Diana Wortham Theatre has become an anchor for the vibrant cultural life that characterizes our region, hosting 200 public events with record-breaking attendance exceeding 55,000 each year,” says current managing director John Ellis. “With demand so high, our community, performing artists, patrons and youth are ready for The Next Stage.”

Current associate director Rae Geoffrey—who will lead the theatre as its new managing director effective July 1 following John Ellis’s retirement this summer—invites the community to visualize exactly what The Next Stage will mean upon completion. “Imagine entering the newly expanded center for the performing arts through its redesigned courtyard entrance and lobby. On a given evening there could be three very different events, in the three different venues, at different price points and for different audiences: from dance performances to innovative new theatre works to intimate chamber or jazz ensembles to community workshops and classes, all under one roof.”

Elements of The Next Stage

New Forum Theatre

  • Seats 80–100
  • Comfortable, tiered seating
  • Black Box theatre/multi-use

New Studio Theatre

  • Seats 60–80
  • Classroom by day; performance venue by night
  • Multi-use for classes, events, etc.

Main Theatre

  • Refurbished throughout
  • Improved sound system with Hearing Assistance Technology
  • Energy efficient LED lighting

Enhanced Amenities and Patron Services

  • Redesigned entrance and lobby
  • Ticketing upgrade: online and mobile access
  • Concessions upgrade: seating and coat check

For more information or to make a donation or pledge to The Next Stage, contact Kathy Jackson at 828.210.9849 or

Leave a Comment