Norfolk playhouse raising funds to renovate historic Riverview Theater

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NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — Norfolk’s historic Riverview Theater is getting a face lift.

After being vacant for many years, the Riverview Theater will soon become home to “Virginia’s underground theater” organization — Generic Theater.

“It’s a beautiful, blank slate,” Generic Theater General Producer Shon M. Stacy said. “I can’t wait to get in there and dive into it.”

The playhouse was founded in 1981. Currently located in Chrysler Hall, the organization produces plays and public programs. Its first show of 2020 will be “Dog Sees God: Confessions of a Teenage Blockhead.”

“We love our partnership with them, but upcoming renovations and things that they’re planning to do has just made us look at what we’re going to do,” said Stacy. “We’ve always wanted to have our own space to have a bit more control.”

Generic Theater announced Monday that it plans to renovate the Riverview Theater in 2020 and make it the organization’s “permanent home.”

When they learned that the owner of the Riverview Theater in Norfolk was looking for a dramatic arts group to take over the space, they knew it was a perfect fit.

“For what we want to do with it and be part of the community with an arts program, a performing arts program specifically, I think it’s just a great fit,” Stacy said.

The building certainly needs some work, both outside and inside.

“When you want to think of “theater,” you’re thinking lights and you’re thinking all the other stuff, so we have to change the electrics,” said Stacy. “There’s some upgrades of the HVAC as well, but structurally, this thing is beautiful.”

Generic Theater is currently fundraising for the Riverview Theater renovation, according to a Facebook post.

“Stay tuned in the next several months as we share our expanded programming, renovation details and progress, and — mostly — status reports as we race to meet our fundraising goals. Never in our 40 year history have we ever asked the public to help us raise funds or bail us out of precarious circumstances. We’ve always managed on our own, through ups and downs, recessions and healthy economies. And now, we are ‘asking.'”

– Facebook post

“In the 24 hours, the support of what we want to do, if that’s just amplified, I can’t wait for the rest of it,” Stacy said.

Stacy has big plans for the space: classes, cabarets and more. Beyond the benefit to the local arts community, he is excited for what the move will bring to the local Riverview community.

“I mean just look at it, it has been vacant for a while,” said Stacy. “So bringing life, I mean this is going to help restaurants, this is going to bring people to a different side of the city.”

Norfolk spokeswoman Lori Crouch said that the city believes Generic Theater’s renovation of the Riverview Theater is a “win-win for everyone.”

“Generic Theater needed a home following the renovations at Chrysler Hall, and Riverview Theater needed new life,” Crouch wrote in an email. “Generic Theater will add to the vibrancy of the Riverview community and that’s pretty exciting.”

Donate to the Riverview Theater renovation here.

Generic Theater hopes to be in Riverview Theater by the summer of 2021.

Copyright 2020 Nexstar Broadcasting, Inc. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten, or redistributed.

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