Akron Civic Theatre to Host Free Party Celebrating the Theater’s 90th Anniversary

Photo by Jeff Gibson

Sat 4/13 @1:30PM

The Akron Civic Theatre is a hub of activity. In addition to more than 200 annual events held at the iconic Rubber City venue, efforts are now underway for its further renovation.

The “Staging the Future” campaign is a $8.5 million project (of which $7 million has been raised) that includes the complete restoration of the theater (specifically the Grand Lobby and Arcade) that began in 2002; the conversion of the adjacent Whitelaw building to a 200-plus capacity performance space; and construction of a new administrative office, new box office and ADA-access elevator.

Also, the project features the integration of digital, audio and visual technologies and art to enhance the exterior of the building and the neighborhood, with a large video wall facing Lock 3, as well as the creation of murals on the walls of the Grand Lobby.

The Akron Civic Theatre kicks off the public phase of its “Staging the Future” capital campaign with a free party — including a screening of the classic movie musical Singin’ in the Rain, celebrating the theater’s 90th anniversary on Saturday afternoon. The event is free, but tickets are required.

CoolCleveland talked to executive director Howard Parr about the celebration and future undertakings.

CoolCleveland: Let’s start with the “Staging the Future” event. What’s planned?

Howard Parr: What we’re working on is an $8.5 million restoration and expansion project. We need to raise the additional $1.5 million, so this event is to basically go out to the public and say: “Here’s what we’re going to do, here’s how much we’ve already raised and we want you to all join us in getting this done.” It just happened that the theater’s 90thanniversary was right around the same time we were planning to do this announcement. We just decided to invite folks to come down, see a movie, have some cake and hear a little bit about what our plans are.

CC: The last time we talked three years ago was in regards to another Akron Civic Theatre restoration project. Is the new phase related?

HP: Yeah, it absolutely is. Three years ago we did some renovation work in the Grand Lobby that was sort of a very early phase of this project. Since then, we essentially expanded. So that project was about $375,000 restoration work. We basically did some work on the electrical and HVAC system in the grand lobby. This is a much more comprehensive project.

CC: What’s the construction timeline regarding the new work?

HP: We’ve already begun on some of the construction. It’s all kind of happening right now. The whole thing will be done by June or July of 2020, but we should see the new club space completed by the end of 2019 and hopefully get some programming in there first quarter 2020.

CC: It’s crazy to think the Civic is celebrating its 90thanniversary.

HP: It is pretty amazing. Ninety years is almost 100 years, so that’s incredible to me. It’s been continually operating, it never shut down. I would argue that right now is a heyday. In terms of usage of the building, we’re doing everything from the Four Tops and the Temptations (last week) to graduations. If you want to talk about its sort of original heyday, that would have been right around the opening between 1929 and probably about 1940. The original heyday mirrors the expansion of the rubber tire industry in Akron, and then the decline of the theater pretty much mirrors that as well.

CC: Is it too soon to look ahead to the Akron Civic Theatre’s 100thyear celebration? How about Devo opening up for the Black Keys?

HP: Yeah, absolutely, and I’m not sure who is opening for who. Also, we have to get Chrissie (Hynde) in there too. We’ve had that happen when they all played together on our stage in 2008. That was something Devo spearheaded in support of the Democratic Party during President Obama’s campaign.

CC: Heck, for the 100thanniversary why not invite President Obama while you’re at it?

HP: (laughs) Sure, why not? He can be the host.

[Written by John Benson]



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