Sat 4/9 @ 6:30PM
When it comes to arts and entertainment, Northeast Ohio prides itself on diverse offerings taking place any given night. However, you’d be hard-pressed to find more varied shows, tours and productions under one roof than what’s presented at the Akron Civic Theatre.
Just last week the venue hosted national touring performances from a Pink Floyd tribute band, a gospel act, a children’s production and a prog rock group, only to be followed by this week’s schedule featuring a ballet company, a swing band, a Three Stooges festival, a classic rock outfit and, on Saturday, its own fundraising gala, Spirits of the Civic.
Equally diverse from its stage offerings is the Akron Civic Theatre’s interior, which was built in 1929 and fashioned after a Moorish castle featuring Mediterranean decor, medieval carvings, authentic European antiques and Italian alabaster sculptures. Let’s put it this way, once you’ve been to the Civic, you never forget it. That includes the moving clouds on the ceiling.
For an update on what’s going on with the Rubber City venue, CoolCleveland talked to executive director Howard Parr.
While around the turn of the century the Akron Civic Theatre had a $20 million renovation project, there’s talk of further work. What does the venue have planned?
That work was the first major renovation in the theater’s history. It brought the Civic up to modern performance and patron standards. However, when we did that renovation, we only did about two-thirds of what was necessary. We’re getting ready to do a little bit of that. It’s about $2.5 million total, and we’re going to do in the neighborhood of $600,000 of that this summer. When you walk in, it’s through the main big grand lobby. If you’re facing the main staircase and you look up, what you see is a line in the ceiling where we literally stopped the repainting. And so from that area, literally the grand staircase all the way to Main Street was not completed in 2002. That’s the third that’s still remaining.
Granted, the entrance may seem dated, but there’s something magical and historical walking into the venue.
The previous restoration brought it back to what it looked like in 1929 when the theater opened. Repainting wouldn’t modernize anything, it will just bring it back. At some point in the ’70s, somebody painted the whole theater but used the wrong colors. So the restoration is really bringing it back to what it looked like in 1929. And then, we sit on what is sort of the last remaining block of Main Street in Akron that hasn’t really been redeveloped. There are some buildings on our block that aren’t in good shape, and we really need to see that renovation happen. That definitely doesn’t directly impact the theater; it’s not us, but the block itself needs some attention.
What role does the Akron Civic Theatre play in not only the Rubber City but Northeast Ohio?
There are two theaters that are of similar size in Summit County. There is the Akron Civic Theatre, which is 2,500 to 2,600 seats and then E.J. Thomas Hall, which has a maximum capacity of 2,900 seats. Their focus is more fine arts and more university- focused, whereas ours is more entertainment and more community-based. Although none of that is absolute, they certainly do entertainment events at E.J. Thomas and we certainly do fine arts at the Civic.
How will the opening of the brand-new Goodyear Theatre affect the Civic?
It will be interesting. They’re a little bit smaller than us at 1,500 to 1,600 seats. I’m waiting to see how they emerge and what they do. Most of the stuff we’re seeing there so far is not something we’ve had here at either E.J. Thomas or the Civic. I think at the end of the day, you look at Akron and go, “OK, can it support all of these different venues?” The truth is we already are supporting two very active buildings – E.J. Thomas and the Civic. So the answer is I think it can. We’re a great market.
Can you elaborate on how you view the Akron market?
There’s a lot of potential here. There’s something like 2.5 million people within a 50-mile radius of downtown Akron. When we do a national show, we’re seeing only about 40 percent of our ticket buyers that are coming from Summit County. We’re seeing 18 to 20 percent from Cuyahoga County, 15 to 17 percent from Stark County, and maybe around 10 percent each from Portage and Medina Counties. When you start to look at those numbers, what you realize is that I-77 travels both north and south. The market is extremely strong and vibrant. I think there’s room for everybody, including this new venue.
If there’s one mystery about the Akron Civic Theatre it’s the moving cloud display on the ceiling.
It’s a projector.
Uh-oh, you’re giving away your secrets.
You know, it’s OK. Or if you want just write the place is so big we have our own atmosphere and those clouds are real.