MVB Bank donates toward Robinson Grand restoration project

MVB Bank donates toward Robinson Grand restoration project





CLARKSBURG — Nearly $2 million has been donated to restore The Robinson Grand Performing Arts Center in Clarksburg, most-recently including a $75,000 donation from MVB Bank.

Ryan Tolley, the theater’s executive director, and other Clarksburg officials accepted the check and thanked banking officials Monday on the city sidewalk outside the performing arts center and said the donation will go toward continued restoration efforts.

“On behalf of MVB, we’re really appreciative to be part of this project, “MVB Bank regional president John Schirripa said. “It’s very exciting, especially for the Clarksburg area and all of North Central West Virginia.”

Tolley, who was born and raised in the Clarksburg/Bridgeport area before attending college in Orlando, Florida, saw several performances at the theatre near the turn of the century.

“I have some fond memories,” Tolley said.

He hopes “to see amazing events in this facility and to see this facility preserved and restored back to its original luster that we all remember,” and provide a community spot for people to gather.

Work on the theater is “70 to 75 percent” complete, according to Tolley.

MVB Bank has helped the city secure New Market and Historic Tax Credits to reduce the overall construction costs, and also provided bond anticipation notes, Tolley said.

“At MVB Bank, we believe there is a renaissance happening in Clarksburg, and we’re excited to be located here in the middle of such positive and important change,” Bank CEO and President Larry Mazza said in a press release. “The renovation of the historic Robinson Grand will strengthen our community and enhance our quality of life through the arts and the economic impact it will spark. This is the type of project that shows Clarksburg is thinking bigger!”

The Robinson Grand has been undergoing the $15 million renovation project since November 2016, with construction beginning in March 2017.

The theater is scheduled to have a soft opening in August, with a grand opening planned for sometime in October. The names of the performances scheduled through the end of 2018 might be released as soon as during the next month, Tolley said.

“We have a couple more months in terms of construction,” Tolley said. “We’re in the final stretch.”

The project will see the historic building completely overhauled and updated into a state of the art, 950 seat multi-use venue.

Numerous local companies and organizations have made contributions of financial support to the project, including several since October.

In April, FirstEnergy donated $25,000 April 22 and the Cultural Foundation of Harrison County donated $50,000 to the project April 9.

Steptoe and Johnson, a Bridgeport-based law firm, and The Thrasher Group each donated $100,000 to the theater at the beginning of 2018.

Dominon Energy has contributed $250,000 and Antero Resources is the project’s largest contributor with its gift of $650,000.

The project has also received some private donations, Tolley said. All of the individuals and entities who contributed to the project are to receive recognition in the theater’s lobby.

“Without giving back to our community, everything is done for naught,” MVB North market president Herman DeProspero said. 



Station Hope to celebrate city’s social justice history: St. John Episcopal Church was a stop on Underground Railroad …

Station Hope to celebrate city’s social justice history: St. John Episcopal Church was a stop on Underground Railroad …

Station Hope celebrates 5th year.

It was a text over five years ago from then-councilman of Ward 3, Joe Cimperman, that got the ball rolling on Station Hope.

Raymond Bobgan, executive artistic director of Cleveland Public Theater, and an associate of Cimperman, was first confused as to why the councilman wanted a collaboration between St. John Episcopal Church and CPT.

He soon learned that the historic church, the first built in what is now Cleveland, was a stop on the Underground Railroad. He then was all over it.

“Rather than do a single theatre production, we decided to take the model that we had developed for fundraising purposes,” says Bobgan. “It’s where we bring in an assortment of artists, around 250, who perform 10- to 15-minute segments on various stages spread out over the grounds (weather permitting) and inside the church. It gives visitors a chance to move around and see a dance piece, spoken word and musical segments. Audience members are also welcome to contribute to some of the performances.”

Station Hope will celebrate five years of honoring Cleveland’s social justice history from 6:30 to 10:30 p.m. on Saturday, May 5 at St. John’s, 2600 Church Ave., Cleveland.

Although kids from Cuyahoga Metropolitan Housing Authority’s Lakeview Terrace, who participate in CPT’s Brick City Theatre will perform, many of the performers are local professionals.

A few of them include:

Cleveland Association of Black Storytellers. Inlet Dance Theatre.

Mourning [A] BLKstar.

Twelve Literary Arts: Six of Twelve.

Julia De Burgos Cultural Arts Center & Talespinner Children’s Theatre.

Cleveland School District – Facing History New Tech, in Partnership with the MetroHealth System’s Department of Arts in Medicine.

Local authority on the Underground Railroad, Joan Southgate, 89, known as the “spiritual grandmother” of Station Hope, and founder of “Restore Cleveland Hope,” will also be a part of the program.

At age 73, Southgate walked along the Underground Railroad trail. “I did a 519-mile walk to honor all those free blacks, free whites, freedom seekers and enslaved involved in the Underground Railroad,” she said.

The word “healing” comes to Bobgan’s mind when reflecting on what some past visitors have communicated to him about their experience at the festival.

“Every year I come across someone who says I met a stranger and had a subsequent conversation with them, and it’s not like them to do that,” he said. “It just happens naturally and organically as part of the event.”

The event is free. Go to:

Gained in Translation: Cementing broken bonds

Gained in Translation: Cementing broken bonds

Updated: April 29, 2018 12:01:39 am

Gained in Translation: Cementing broken bonds

Kashmiri plays enacted at Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras were highly appreciated.

The grandeur of Kashmir Valley rests not only in its bewitching landscape but also in its literary and cultural accomplishment. From the earliest times, the Valley has served as a vibrant centre of learning, philosophy and art and culture. It has played a significant role in disseminating to the entire globe the canons and doctrines of diverse religious philosophies, among which include the Mahayana doctrine of Buddhism, Trika Shiv philosophy and the Kashmiri version of Islamic Sufism known as Reshut.

Amidst this seemingly diverse religious landscape, the distinct aspect of the people of Kashmir has been the time-tested belief in social togetherness, religious cordiality and a deep sense of belonging to the language and the soil.

This deep socio-cultural adhesiveness was evident even during the 18th and 19th centuries, when Kashmiri Muslim Sufi poets of prominence like Socha Kral, Nyma Sahab, Shams Faqir, Rahman Dar, Wahab Khar, Ahmad Batwari, in order to express their inward Sufi experiences, made use of terms from Hindu Shastras. In the same manner, there were jubilant readers among Muslims who kept the leelas written by Parmanand, Master Zinda Koul and others so dear to their eyes.

This rich legacy of literary fertility and cultural maturity was carried down to our own times particularly in the ’70s and ’80s, when theatrical activities reached exemplary heights in the Valley. The Kashmiri theatre with its deep commitment and dedication to both — the artiste as well as the audience — not only staged plays in vernacular language but also enacted famous Hindi and Urdu adaptations. Amateur theatre groups of Kashmir also relied on translated versions of internationally acclaimed dramas. Some of the prominent theatre groups during the ’70s and ’80s were the Kala Kendra, Rang Manch Theatres, Vasant Theatre, Sangarmal Theatre, Sangam Theatre, Kali Das Theatre, Shah Theatre, Mansoor Dramatic Club, Kashmir Valley Theatre, Navrang and Navrattan Natsaar.

This beautiful shade of theatrical activity wasn’t just confined to the four walls of urban Srinagar. Periodical theatre festivals were organised at district headquarters as well, and it was during this time that a few theatre clubs, without seeking any financial assistance from the government, even managed to arrange cultural tours to different parts of the country. Kashmiri plays enacted at Delhi, Bombay, Calcutta and Madras were highly appreciated. The lead in this direction was taken by Rang Manch Dramatic Club and it was carried forward by other theatre groups of the Valley.

This favourable clime, required for the overall bloom of cultural accomplishments in general and theatrical art in particular, was fabricated not only by the unfractured zeal and dedication of theatre practitioners but by the immense love and respect that the august members of the theatre fraternity showered on each other, irrespective of the diverse religious backgrounds. This cemented bond generated by a secular socio-cultural sentiment acted as a true and dynamic force for the theatre movement in Kashmir.

But things radically changed by the unending period of insecurity, pain and gloom in the Valley. Culture, particularly theatre activity, was reduced to the point of almost annihilation. There was a loss of connectivity between the fraternity of actors and the audience — a prerequisite for the success of theatre. Performers who had given their toil and blood for the promotion of theatre in Kashmir found themselves scattered in alien lands struggling to earn a livelihood. In Kashmir too, people associated with the theatre movement lost a good number of well-wishers and the very clime was not favourable enough to pursue the performing arts. Amid the choking environs, the enthusiasm of theatre lovers did not die out completely in the Valley; instead, good efforts were made by some of the theatre practitioners to keep drama alive through staging of plays in and around Srinagar. New themes and new techniques were introduced in tune with the latest canons of dramaturgy. In spite of all these relentless efforts, the discipline of drama could not be carried back to the highs it reached in the ’70s.

In Jammu too, the Pandit Theatre Group continued to stage dramas on the latest themes amid terrible psychological strain and financial distress, but despite these humble efforts, the cheerful and pleasurable theatrical clime could not be regenerated and regained. The present effort of organising a joint theatre festival marks the humble beginning of bringing together scattered artistes and actors of the Valley, enabling them to sit together and work out a strategy to restore the previous glory of the performing art. The festival further intends to provide a platform for enthusiastic drama lovers to showcase their talent and to play a vibrant role in the revival of the theatre movement in Jammu and Kashmir. If we succeed in our modest attempts, we are sure that this humble beginning will create history in the annals of theatre in Kashmir.

Fayaz is a professor of history and culture and former director, UGC Academic Staff College, University of Kashmir.
Translated from Kashmiri by the author

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Part of Athens history returns on Friday

Part of Athens history returns on Friday





A piece of Athens’ history is back in its place after the Texan Theater sign was attached to the front of the renovated structure on Friday.

“People have been wanting to see that sign back for months now,” said Athens Community Services Coordinator Adrianna Hinds. “It’s really neat to see it refurbished and restored and back up on the facade.

Refurbishing and reattaching the sign has always been central to the Texan project. In July 2016, the Athens City Council approved a plan to have Design Center Signs of Tyler remove, restore and re-install the 20-foot-long Texan Theater sign for $14,000.

After looking at other options,  Athens City Council members chose neo-ruby and white, partly because of the colors’ resemblance to Athens High School’s maroon and white colors. Electricians hooked the sign to photo cells on Friday that would switch it on at dusk.

Hinds said the Texan has been getting favorable reviews from those who have toured the inside of it.

“They’re loving it,” Hinds said. “One of the first things out of their mouths is, ‘Wow. It’s so much bigger than I thought it was.”’

Hinds said they love the history and simplicity of the historic bricks and the mezzanine section.

The Texan was a vital part of downtown life in Athens for decades. For almost 36 years, the people of Athens passed through the doors of the theatre at 207 E. Tyler St.

In 1948, the Athens Daily Review reported on the opening of the Texan, with ads congratulating the owner, Roy Parnell, and mentioning the state-of-the-art neon sign outside the theatre.

During those years, the box office sold tickets to thousands of moms, dads and kids who traveled to the venue about a block off the square for an outing. After it closed in 1984, for more than three decades, it was vacant and fell into ill repair.

When the idea of salvaging what was remaining of the old theater location and making it suitable for events, it was imagined as an outdoor venue. As plans developed, council members eventually decided it would be enclosed and air conditioned. The type of roof chosen was an enclosed overlapping structure. On the Tyler Street end, the mezzanine section will be above the restrooms.

Hinds said an open house is planned for May 15, from 4 p.m. to 6 p.m.

People “can check it out if they’re interested in private rentals,” Hinds said. “And there’ll be light refreshments.”



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