By Casey Phillips
Thursday, October 2, 2014
To Chattanooga fans of acoustic, jazz and avant-garde music, the overhaul of Barking Legs Theater has probably made the last couple of months difficult to get through.
Co-owner Bruce Kaplan says the scope of the reno, which began in mid-July, has been “both bigger and more expensive” than he and wife and fellow co-owner Ann Law imagined. In all, the update will cost about $150,000 and is being funded through a variety of sources, including $26,000 from a Causeway fundraiser as well as donations from private contributors and local foundations.
“When we first floated the plan … it wasn’t going to be that big,” Kaplan says. “My tendency is to think small.”
Kaplan says the renovations are about 75 percent complete, and he has shows tentatively scheduled for later this month.
The upgrades have affected almost every facet of the venue, from extensive tweaks to the gallery to behind-the-scenes upgrades to the electrical and plumbing. The biggest changes, however, have been improvements to the audience experience, which Kaplan admits was “not all that comfortable.”
“We felt that people came to Barking Legs to hear great music in spite of Barking Legs,” he laughs.
That should no longer be the case.
The Dodds Avenue venue’s seats have been refurbished. They’ve also been rearranged to create aisles that should make bathroom visits easier to pull off without announcing your gastrointestinal distress to the rest of the room.
Even the lobby has been overhauled with work by local artists, a better bar and an informal performance space that Kaplan says he’d love to see filled by jazz trios and other small ensembles. The updates continue outside the building, where the backyard has been converted from a de facto dumping ground into a lounge for smokers and yet another performance space.
This, friends, is Barking Legs 2.0.
In the last seven years, I’ve happily put up with the venue’s design quirks to enjoy performances by the likes of the Brock McGuire Band and Barbara Lamb. I would continue to do so, but it’s nice to know that Barking Legs soon will look as good as it sounds.
Even better, this renovation implies Kaplan and Law’s continuing, long-term commitment to the local scene, which has benefited tremendously from their dogged determination to host artists in tragically underrepresented genres.
What do you think? Are you also looking forward to Barking Legs 2.0? Shoot me an email, and we’ll dish.
Contact Casey Phillips at cphillips@timesfree press.com or 423-757-6205. Follow him on Twitter at @PhillipsCTFP.