Theatre in the Attic


The League of Historic American Theatre’s 39th Annual Conference couldn’t have picked a better host city than Nashville.  What a great city.  I am surprised at all the similarities it shares with my hometown of Austin. Of course, any city would be great if you get to experience it with hundreds of owners, operators, board members and volunteers from North America’s most beautiful theatres.  The storytelling that happens when this group gets together is inspiring…

Yesterday, I met a woman  from Pulaski, Tennessee who told me a story about a theatre company that had outgrown its space and was looking for a new home.   I don’t know the exact details (note to self: get her to write a story for the InLeague Magazine) but they found a storefront on the square in downtown Pulaski.   The space seemed perfect: wide open with an area suitable to build a stage.   It was the perfect home for the theatre company.  Then someone asked, “What’s upstairs?” No one knew the answer.   It was used as storage by the previous owner but the doors were currently screwed shut.  Maybe that could be office or rehearsal space.  Curious, they pried open the doors and…

Folks, it just doesn’t get better than this.   A theatre company went looking for a new home and purchased a storefront and then found an Opera House hiding in the attic.  That’s right.  Upstairs they found the old, forgotten Antoinette Hall built in 1868.  No one remembered it was there…


Goodspeed’s Price and Classic Cinemas Honored

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(July 23, 2014) Michael Price, Executive Director of Goodspeed Musicals, and Chicago-area movie theatre chain Classic Cinemas received awards from the national organization The League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT) for their excellence in preserving, restoring and sustaining historic theatres. Close to 400 historic theatre operators were in attendance at the LHAT National Conference in New York City.

Michael Price (East Haddam, CT) was presented the Outstanding Individual Contribution Award for his lifetime of achievements in theatre and arts management. Goodspeed productions have garnered 13 Tony Awards, 33 Tony nominations and Goodspeed itself was honored with two special Tony Awards. Dedication to preserving the historic Goodspeed Opera House led Mr. Price to be one of the founders of the League of Historic American Theatres.

He is also a founding member of the National Alliance for Musical Theatre, vice president of the American Theatre Wing and a member of the Tony Awards Management Committee. Mr. Price is the recipient of honorary Doctorates in Fine Arts, honoris causa, from Connecticut College and the University of Hartford.  He is also a recipient of the State of Connecticut Arts Award for service to the arts.  Mr. Price is a graduate of Michigan State University and received a Master of Arts degree from the University of Minnesota and a Master of Fine Arts degree from Yale School of Drama.

Connecticut Governor Dannel P. Malloy said of Price, “Through Michael’s hard work and dedication, the Goodspeed Opera House was listed as a national historic landmark and also recognized as a state landmark by the Connecticut Antiquarian and Landmark Society.  Millions in supportive funding has been raised to maintain the opera house in its original historic condition.”

York Theatre (Elmhurst, IL) was given the Outstanding Historic Theatre Award for demonstrated excellence through community impact, quality of programs and services, and quality of the restoration and rehabilitation of its historic structure. Ken Stein, League Executive Director, reported, “The York Theatre is an amazing example of how a small theatre can partner with an entire community to bring about a positive economic development for its community.”  For several years the York has donated a significant amount of its upstairs real estate to LHAT’s sister organization, Theatre Historical Society of America, for use as its home office.  “It is always great to see that level of commitment to historic preservation in a small for-profit company,” commented Stein.

Nominated by past League Board President Dulcie Gilmore, the York is part of the Classic Cinemas chain owned and operated by Willis and Shirley Johnson, who were present to receive the award.

Gilmore, who is currently Director of the Arie Crown Theater in Chicago, stated, “The Johnsons entered the movie business with no direct experience. What they brought to the enterprise were solid business practices that have been lost along the way of film exhibition over the past forty years. They engaged in an old-style showmanship method of operation that put the patron first. This included showing respect for the historic building and its significance to the community.”

The awards were presented at the League’s 2014 conference, which took place in New York City, July 16-19, with more than 370 people attending, including more than 200 representatives from historic theatres throughout the country and 140 representatives from service provider and supplier firms, as well invited guests.

In addition to the awards, the League also nominated and elected two members to begin board of director terms in January 2015. Kelly Updike, Executive Director of the Embassy Theatre Foundation in Fort Wayne, IN, was nominated for a second three-year term on the board where she serves as Chair of the Membership Programs and Services Committee.  Bill Register, Vice President of Operations for the Nederlander Organization in New York, was nominated as a new board member after serving for the past year as a member of the NYC conference host committee.

“Our board members are active volunteers in the League as well as strong champions for the valuable role historic theatres can play in the life of their communities. The League is fortunate to have their experience and leadership,” said John Bell, LHAT President and President and CEO of the Tampa Theatre in Florida.

The League of Historic American Theatres was founded in 1976 by 42 theatres and has more than 300 theatre and service provider members across the United States and Canada. A nonprofit membership organization, the League’s mission is to champion the preservation, restoration and operation of historic theatres. Information is at .

We really didn’t sleep…

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Before the conference I joked that in the city that doesn’t sleep, neither would we…  Turns out, I wasn’t joking.   With events starting as early at 7:30AM and as late as 12:30PM, there really wasn’t much time for sleeping.

We kicked off the conference on Tuesday with a very special tour of the Apollo Theater.  We then proceeded to the United Palace (photo below) and didn’t stop until 18 theatres later we found ourselves at the soon-to-be reopened Kings Theatre in Brooklyn on Saturday.

Along the way we had a private photo opportunity on the famous red steps in Times Square (photo above).  We felt very VIP as the security guards held the crowds back to ensure we had the steps all to ourselves.

During the week I caught the 2013 and 2014 Tony Award Winners: A Gentleman’s Guide to Love and Murder and Kinky Boots.  Loved them both.  Sam and Ken also got to Aladdin and were blown away.

Almost 400 attendees enjoyed over 30 educational sessions, 8 special events and 18 tours…. I don’t know about anyone else, but I am T.I.R.E.D…

LHAT United Palace

Getting Ready to Take a Bite Out of the Big Apple

Getting ready to head out to NYC for the LHAT National Conference next week to join nearly 400 of my historic theatre colleagues from around the nation.  We have 17 theatres to visit, four shows to see and even a baseball game to attend.  I am most excited about seeing (Tony Award Winning)  Gentleman’s Guide To Love and Murder.

With over 30 educational sessions, fantastic theatre tours – including The Apollo, Lincoln Center, Radio City and even a ghost tour of the New Amsterdam – and more networking opportunities than ever before, this National Conference (July 16-19) in New York City will be the largest and most important gathering in League history.

In the city that never sleeps, neither will we…

Remembering Maya Angelou

One of the best things about my job is that I get to have a different perspective on  shows at historic theatres – literally not figuratively.  Standing backstage I get to see and hear things that the audience misses.  But whether I am in the audience or back stage, historic theatres remain a magical place.

After a dance show, Diavolo – Foreign Bodies, at the Paramount in Austin, I got a few minutes alone with artistic director, Jacques Heim, who asked me if the Paramount audience was always so generous.  “My dancers are feeding off the energy from your audience.  It is like a fantastic feast!”  And he was right.  The dancers were energized by the audience.  It’s not the first time an artist has told me that there is a special connection between the audience and stage at historic theatres.  These places have a special energy even when they are empty… much less with a full audience.

A week later the exact opposite thing happened when Maya Angelou took the stage.   I watched the entire talk from backstage and at the end of the show Dr. Angelou nearly collapsed from exhaustion.  The audience had fed off her energy so completely that she gave herself over totally that night.  When she signaled to the stage crew to allow for an encore her staff was speechless – evidently that is very rare.

As soon as the curtain closed for the final time, she collapsed into a waiting wheel chair.  The energy had been drained from her.  It is a show that still, today, gets comments from audience members who were there.  For some, it was life changing.

Talking to her backstage before she left was a delight and remains one of my favorite memories.  She had a light around her, an energy that was palpable.

I wish her all the best on her journey into the next life…

#LHATNYC – “In the City That Never Sleeps, Neither Will We!”

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You can now register for the League’s National Conference in NYC – July 16-19.

We are a little late getting registration open this year.  Why?  Because the possibilities for us in the Big Apple were almost endless.  So we found it hard to actually put an end to it!

With over 30 educational sessions, 17 theatre tours – including a ghost tour – and more networking opportunities than ever before, this National Conference (July 16-19) in New York City will be our largest and most important gathering in League history.

Our educational programs this year will include special intensive tracks for marketing and fundraising as well as sessions on restoration, safety, technology and programming along with important case studies of best practices from around the nation. In total, we will have over 35 hours of historic theatre education – truly something for everyone.

Don’t miss out.  Register on-line today!


CNN Picks World’s Most Spectacular Theatres

So good to see members of the League on the list… AND a nod to the Paramount in Austin!