Local theatre in refreshed limelight

Posted 9/22/22

It’s time to get the show back on the road.

Key City Public Theatre is back and the Chamber of Jefferson County is hosting a ribbon-cutting to honor its reopening Sept. 27.

While it might …

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Local theatre in refreshed limelight


It’s time to get the show back on the road.

Key City Public Theatre is back and the Chamber of Jefferson County is hosting a ribbon-cutting to honor its reopening Sept. 27.

While it might seem silly to cut a ribbon for a business that never really went away, when patrons walk into the theatre they’ll see that this is a whole new space.

When the pandemic hit in March 2020 and the doors were forced closed, artistic director Denise Winter knew this was her chance to finally get renovations done that had been put off by the busy show schedule.

“We had begun what was going to be a pretty modest building upgrade pre-pandemic and when it was clear that our doors were going to be closed for an extended period of time, we doubled down on that project and embraced the opportunity that you never have as a theatre to have your doors close and we used that time to do a major overhaul of the entire building,” Winter said.

Those renovations are floor to ceiling, wall to wall, and front to back in every sense of the words. The first thing people will see as they enter is the new box office that was added on to the front of the building, but once inside the lobby it’s impossible not to gawk at the grandeur.

The massive, tiered chandelier is the instant attention-grabber. Coming from the Saber Room in Chicago, the chandelier has shone on acts like Elvis Presley, Liberace, and Frank Sinatra.

Winters found the magnificent fixture at Vintage Hardware, where the owner told her he had exactly what she was looking for, but that she’d have to use her imagination since it was in boxes at the time.

“When we did the mock-up we realized that it didn’t quite fit; it was too tall and it was going to hang too low,” Winters said. “So we went back to him and I said, ‘Well, you said we needed to have imagination, can you imagine taking the top tier off the chandelier and making it its own separate piece?”

That smaller chandelier subtly greets guests in the box office before the full luxury of the lobby.

Thanks to the imaginative chandelier splicing, another set of outstanding artwork is allowed space to spread out: The stairwell and wall behind quickly come into focus adding layers of wonder.

Local fiber artist Margie McDonald was contracted first to create the sculptural piece of wire art for the stairwell with whirling copper woven into an abstract web of texture.

“Then I said, ‘Do you work in wood? Would you be interested in doing something on the wall?’” Winter recalled.

The same intricate, abstract aesthetic McDonald brings to wire works equally well translated through the mosaic of wooden blocks that takes up the largest lobby wall, including the doors leading into the theatre.

Once through those decadent doors, more wonder awaits.

Perhaps the most comfortable seats in town have been selected for the 77 spots inside the theatre with extra lumbar support to hold guests through as many acts as any playwright can throw at them.

Such sturdy seats require solid flooring, so the risers below had to be ripped out. The floors which once groaned are now quiet as can be, thanks to laser-precise engineering.

Though most audience members will never see it, the actors will be pleased with the same level of loving detail given to the green room, including new lighting fixtures, safe storage spaces, and even a shower for removing make up or the sweaty remnants of particularly passionate performances.

The renovations even go beyond the architecture into the air itself. With MERV-13 air filters scrubbing the air pulled in and UV purifiers cleaning what circulates within, theatre-goers can breathe easy.

All told, this nearly half a million dollars worth of renovations has been done not only to create professional theatre productions, but to offer the community a space to come and celebrate a multitude of events for years to come.

“It’s not just us celebrating. I’m viewing it as a celebration for the community,” Winter said. “We have lots of things in our community that we treasure and the pandemic put so many of them at risk. I just want to celebrate the community that I have the good fortune of living and working in. It’s a gift that’s going to continue because we did it. We made it. We made it happen and now everyone gets to enjoy it and that’s what this ribbon cutting celebration is really about.

“This is your gift it’s wrapped up in a bow. We’re going to cut that ribbon and come in and enjoy it.”


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