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Clear Space Theatre prepares for next chapter

Katie Tabeling
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Clear Space Theater Exterior, 2022. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CLEAR SPACE THEATER

The Clear Space Theatre will be continuing its search for a new place to build a new theater, but it also started off the year with minor renovations to the seats and lobby. | PHOTO COURTESY OF CLEAR SPACE THEATER

REHOBOTH BEACH — The Clear Space Theatre is starting the year with minor renovations and the search for new leadership, but the biggest changes are still on the horizon.

Clear Space Executive Director Wesley Paulson has retired as of Jan. 31. As leader of the nonprofit regional theater, Paulson was at the helm for 10 years, and has been credited with bringing a sound financial mindset to the arts organization.

“I am proud of my 10 years of service and grateful for the leadership and support I have received from the staff and board,” he said in a statement. “Together we survived the pandemic and provided a stable financial position for the company. That is a highlight for me among many great memories over the years.” 

Before Clear Space, Paulson was chief financial officer for the United Methodist Church in Washington, D.C. and a former president of the Maryland College of Art.

The Clear Space Theatre Board of Directors is searching for an interim executive director. A hiring committee, which will include board members, will have the final decision. After that temporary position has been filled, the board will continue to find a permanent executive director.

The theater company has recently completed renovations at 20 Baltimore Ave., including replacing theater seats, replacing the carpet in the theater and the offices, as well as replacing the bar and lighting in the lobby.

The project was in part funded by donations made in the memory of Melanie Bradley, Clear Space’s longtime music director, who died in July 2022. The campaign raised $25,000.

In 2018, Clear Space planned to build a $8.8 million theater on 413, 415 and 417 Rehoboth Ave. But those original plans were scuttled over parking issues. A later plan  that included a traditional theater and a “black box theater,” was still met with protests from neighbors and was later overturned by city officials.

Instead of proceeding with a lengthy court battle, Clear Space abandoned the plans to build on Rehoboth Avenue. Eventually the three lots were sold for a combined $2.8 million to three limited liability companies that all share an address to St. Lawrence Street Venture, which is registered to attorney Eugene Lawson Jr.

In the meantime, Clear Space has renewed its lease until 2025 and continues to search for property for its next location.

“We would like the future space to be near restaurants so that our patrons can make a night out when they see a show. We would also like more space as we grow the company to continue serving our mission,” Clear Space Director of Development and Outreach Stephanie Whitcomb said. “At minimum, we hope it can be 3 acres.”

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