Behind the Curtains
At the birth 75 years ago, the swanky new Appalachian Theater
had its house in order.
Admission was a quarter for adults, a dime for kids, and the first movie was “Breaking the Ice,” starring Bobby Breen.
Now, as the rebirth is breaking on the horizon, plans are in full swing for a renovated and restored Appalachian Theatre to transpose the last two letters of its name and become a glorious home to performing arts group of all kinds.
“There must be at least three dozen cultural organizations and arts groups from around the region who will make use of a reborn Appalachian Theatre,” said Keith Martin, vice chairman of the newly minted board of trustees for the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country.
“Our mission in the coming months and years is to insure the new theater meets the needs of these different local performing arts agencies, as well as providing a stage for regional and national touring groups.”
The 18-member board has John Cooper, of Mast General Store, as chairman, and as vice chairman, Frank Mohler, theatrical designer and professor emeritus from Appalachian State, who is responsible for design and construction, and Martin, distinguished professor for the ASU Department of Theatre and Dance, who will guide the operations and programming.
The place is even going high hat grammatically.
With an “er,” a theater is just a pedestrian place showing cinema and films. But with an ‘re,’ a theatre is home to live performing arts, cultural activities and educational classes, as well.
When it comes to giving the theater new life as a theatre, there are two heroes needing a bow, Martin said.
“Those two heroes, of course, are the Boone Town Council, which provided the funding to acquire the venue and the DBDA (Downtown Boone Development Association), which served as the fiscal agent until the newly formed agency obtained its non-profit status and its plan for capital funding,” he said.
The town of Boone purchased the foreclosed King Street cinema, formerly the Appalachian Twin Theater, for $624,000.
And now that the newly formed agency, the Appalachian Theatre of the High Country, has its name, its board, its community outreach in high gear and is awaiting the official OK on its tax-exempt status, the planning and fundraising can begin.
Pilar Fotta, formerly DBDA coordinator and now the town’s cultural resources director, has said the fundraising effort will include reimbursing the Town of Boone for the building. Further, revenues raised will cover renovating and staffing the theater and a fund for tiered-down facility operation “to create a financially stable and much-needed community arts space.”
While the planning and fundraising is going on, Cooper, Martin and Mohler will concentrate on what things will look like at the inaugural curtain-raising. When will that be? Any date, and even a realistic fund-raising goal, would be just speculation at this point, Martin said.
From an operations and performance perspective, Martin said the renovations, based on a survey of potential user groups, could include:
- an orchestra pit;
- an expanded stage area;
- a sprung-wooden floor suitable for dance performances;
- enhanced lighting and sound systems;
- additional dressing rooms;
- an upgraded lobby and restroom facilities.
A perfect example of why the agency is shy about announcing a fundraising financial figure, Martin said, is the orchestra pit.
“We aren’t even at the architectural stage yet, so who can imagine the difference in the cost for an orchestra pit for six musicians versus one for 36 musicians, for example,” he said.
Besides the performing arts and cultural groups who will benefit – among dozens of potential user groups are the Blue Ridge Community Theatre, Mountain Home Music, In/Visible Theatre, High Country Playwrights Forum and various local dance schools – the new agency’s mission statement also focuses on education, promising to offer the facility on a rental basis to user groups for education and outreach purposes, a crucial way to get students and community members engaged in the Appalachian Theatre.