Juliet may soon appear on the “Juliet balcony” at the former Paseo Plunge building as Shakespeare in the Park seeks to make the Paseo Arts District its permanent home.
Kathryn McGill, executive and artistic director of Oklahoma Shakespeare in the Park, was looking for a new home for the group after it lost its previous location at the Fred Jones Assembly Plant, which is being redeveloped into a 21c Museum Hotel.
“We’ve been homeless, really, since our stage in Edmond burned down twice,” McGill said. “We eventually moved to the Myriad Gardens, where we put on our productions at the water stage and moved our offices into Stage Center.
“And we all know what happened to that,” he said of Stage Center, which flooded in 2010 and is now being demolished to make way for a new OGE Energy Corp. headquarters. “We’ve since been doing some indoor productions at OCU and some at the Freede Little Theater at the Civic Center.”
Tired of the constant displacements, McGill sought advice from Robbie Kienzle, a veteran assistant city planner assigned last year to a new position of coordinating efforts involving the city’s arts community. Kienzle introduced McGill to Joy Reed Belt, who took over efforts to develop the former Paseo Plunge building, 3010 Paseo, following the death last year of her husband, John Belt — the area’s pioneering developer and promoter.
The 30,000-square-foot building is the largest on the block, yet it remained an empty eyesore for decades until John Belt, an attorney who also loved the arts, bought it for $230,000 in 2010. The building started out as a popular swimming hole in the 1930s, and was turned into a frozen pizza production kitchen and Italian restaurant The Spaghetti Factory before going empty in the ’80s.
John Belt created an entirely new facade for the building that fit in with the surrounding mix of bright colored stucco and red tile roofs. He was dreaming up a list of possible tenants when he was diagnosed with cancer and died one week later.
As McGill and Joy Belt toured the building, they agreed the basement would be ideal for the group’s offices. Belt suggested the group make the Paseo home to its winter theater and children’s productions, and took McGill up to the third floor.
The ceilings were high. And John Belt had built wooden stairways and platforms that extended to exterior Juliet balconies he had added to the building.
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