In January and March of this year two new facilities opened at the end of Shirlington Village. The Shirlington Library and Signature Theatre are redesigns of old buildings in Arlington in need of renovating. According to Suzanne Stevens, Signature Theatre's publicist, the old building, located on Four Mile Run Road, flooded occasionally and had no backstage for the performers.
The library, originally built in 1947 as the Fairlington Library, had expanded and moved several times before its new location in Shirlington.
"If it were just a library or just a theatre it would be great but having both makes it more of a culture," Sam Sweet, Managing Director at Signature, said.
In addition to sharing a building the theatre and library collaborate on various events and lectures. Erik Shaffer, the theatre’s Artistic Director, also designed a mural for the library that hangs over the children’s bookshelves. In the future the library will be hosting six other programs with Signature. One such program will invite artistic directors to talk about the planning of new facilities and what goes into their development.
Free parking is offered to patrons of both facilities in a garage next door to the library.
Susan McCarthy, Branch Manager at the library, said that it is three times the size of the old library, with a wider selection of books and a special collection of standard theatrical works.
The new building was designed environmentally with recycled-content carpet and reduced-odor paints and glues to preserve air quality. It also features a reflective white roof to help keep the building cool.
The new Shirlington Library includes a meeting room that can seat 75 people and is equipped with a projector and screen designed to allow a person to show images or videos on a white screen but also equipped with touch sensor technology that allows for writing on the board.
The meeting room, when not in use, is used as a study area for library patrons and can also be opened up as an extension of the library for larger events.
Although there are a limited number of events that are shared with both the library and Signature, Sweet said this partnership is something that they are working to expand.
The new Signature Theatre, located above the library, has two theatres, which allows the company to show more than one play at a time.
"It’s been a wonderful leap forward in terms of our ability to accommodate audiences," Stevens said about the opening of the new building.
Signature has a national reputation and works with producers and composers such as Steven Sondheim, composer of musicals such as West Side Story, and Cameron Mackintosh, producer of Phantom of the Opera and Les Miserables.
Signature is known for its "Innovative staging of works" according to Stevens.
"It's really creative but also accessible so know one should be scared of what we do here," Stevens said.
Signature will be showing cabarets throughout the year and will begin its run of "Merrily We Roll Along" in September when its season starts.