After a five year hiatus, the Bonham Theatre in Fairbury is once again showing films on the big screen.
The theatre, which first opened on Sept. 27, 1926, earned its title as the showcase of the area, being a state-of-the-art facility when constructed.
But time took its toll, and the building fell into disrepair over the years. It eventually closed in 2012 after the then-owner was unable to afford a required upgrade to digital projects.
Then a group of Fairbury residents determined to keep the Bonham sprang into action and launched a fundraiser.
“We had so many different fundraisers, work days, demolition and cleaning, and all that was done by volunteers,” said Brooke Schwab, president of the Bonham Theatre Project. “Once we got to skilled labor we had contractors hired who came in and did a lot of the work, but we had a lot of volunteer work done also.
“The largest chunks of the money came from grants. Deb Ebke was our treasurer at the time and she did an amazing job of writing grants that we got.”
The Bonham Theatre Project is a nonprofit group organized to restore the theater. It bought the building at auction in 2013 for less than $25,000 with aspirations of restoring it to its former glory. Doing so required around $800,000 in renovations.
Upgrading to digital projectors was a key part of that, though fire code and safety upgrades were the biggest portion of the project.
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“Upgrading the projector to digital was why it closed,” Schwab said. “Unfortunately for us, that wasn’t the only issue with the building. Once he shut down, for us to reopen all those fire codes and handicap accessibility and all that wasn’t compliant. It was grandfathered in before, and we had to meet them.
“The sprinkler system was one of those big ticket items that you hope to never use. At first it was a major challenge, but I think we’ve successfully met all the requirements and still did it in an aesthetically pleasing way.”
Some of the needed upgrades included modifying emergency exits, additional HVAC safety measures and a handicap accessible exit from the main theatre. A second theatre used to be upstairs, but is longer in use.
Organizers hope to one way raise funds to reopen the second theatre.
Great care was also taken to restore the dome ceiling in the theatre, which was previously blocked from view by a suspended ceiling.
“My generation growing up, I never saw the dome,” Schwab said. “But back when the balcony was opened up people saw that. During the demolition you couldn’t see this until you had a flashlight, but the stenciling was so faded you couldn’t even see it. We had an artist come in and do a replica of the stenciling.”
Schwab added the theatre is something the community takes pride in, and will show films and host events for years to come.
An iconic theater built in 1932 and located in downtown Bar Harbor has received grant funding to continue an upgrade that began in 2014.
The Criterion Theatre, at 35 Cottage St. in Bar Harbor, received $80,000 in grant support from the TEW Foundation in Seattle to upgrade its 1980s-era sound system and complete its HVAC overhaul, according to an April 16 news release.
In addition to that funding, the Juniper Foundation, also of Seattle, pledged an additional $30,000 in matching funds toward completing the sound system upgrade and updating the Criterion’s theatrical lighting system to modern high-efficiency LED/digital equipment. This means that the Juniper Foundation will match every donation dollar-for-dollar up to $30,000, resulting in a combined total of $60,000 on top of the $80,000 already raised.
The Criterion’s aging sound system is not adequate for the scale of its large live productions, which have included shows by Judy Collins, David Crosby, Mavis Staples and The Wailers in recent years. Instead, it’s been relying on a rental company from 60 miles away to provide the necessary equipment for big shows, according to the release.
The Criterion hosts roughly 20 large-scale live productions each year, in addition to numerous smaller productions and ongoing films. The theater is located in the midst of a lively section of downtown that includes shopping, eateries and pubs. Productions there are often the focal point of patrons who make an evening of eating out and attending the theater.
The sound and light system rentals, amounting to roughly $40,000 per year, are not considered cost-effective. Installing high-efficiency modern sound and lights equipment, including speakers, amplifiers, monitors and stage lights, will allow the Criterion to eliminate rental expenses.
Another benefit of updating the systems is the greening of the historic theater, a goal in the board’s emerging strategic plan.
“We wish to improve the efficiency of our productions and the overall quality of our live performances and film screenings for the benefit of all of our patrons,” Criterion’s development director, Mark Tipton, said in the release. “In doing so, we will ensure that local performers like Acadia Community Theater, Robinson Ballet Co. and local musicians have access to the same quality audio equipment as the national acts we feature. We’ll also be taking a bold step towards A Climate to Thrive’s goal to achieve MDI energy independence by 2030.”
A Climate to Thrive is a community group established in 2016 on Mount Desert Island to address environmental and economic sustainability.
According to the release, the upgrades serve the theater’s mission to bring high-quality and culturally diverse arts programming to the MDI community throughout the year.
Tipton added, “Our hearing patrons will be able to benefit from better overall sound quality when attending films, live concerts, and special events at our theater. Patrons with hearing challenges will benefit from our upcoming ADA-compliant headsets and select Sunday open caption screenings.”
The deadline for the $30,000 matching challenge is Dec. 31. Over $2,500 has already been raised.
According to its website, the founder of the Criterion, George C. McKay Sr., was a convicted bootlegger in the 1920s but went on to become an upstanding citizen of Bar Harbor.
Featuring an Art Deco décor and a floating balcony, it was a marvel of design and modernity in its time. It is one of two remaining Art Deco theaters in Maine, and the only one that retains its original auditorium, without having been split or divided.
The theater was in private ownership for most of its existence. It closed for some years in the 2000s. Its interior was in significant disrepair, primarily due to flooding and mold. In 2014, a prominent Bar Harbor businessman, Michael Boland, organized a nonprofit, bolstered by a $2 million donation from an anonymous donor. Work began to restore the theater, including repairing major structural issues, installing a digital projector, reupholstering the seats, matching the original carpet, wall panels and sconces, and repainting the ceiling.
The final mainstage production of Ithaca College Theatre’s spring 2019 season challenges the status quo by exploring subjects of war, violence, homelessness and societal upheaval. José Rivera’s “Marisol” opens April 25 in Ithaca College’s Hoerner Theatre. The play inspires action, and IC Theatre will offer audiences the chance to take action right outside the theatre doors by offering opportunities to donate to local charities.
“Marisol” follows Marisol Perez, a Puerto Rican copy editor living in Manhattan who finds herself caught in the crossfire as angels start a revolution to overthrow God. The angels are trying to restore order and beauty to the world, and Marisol struggles to maintain her sanity in the midst of the dangerous environment crumbling around her.
Playwright José Rivera faced many of the societal issues tackled by the play in his time living in the Bronx, New York, and has seen the play take on new life in today’s increasingly erratic world. “Theplay attempts to define the ways in which the world has ceased to make sense,” said Rivera in his playwright’s statement.
In adapting Harper Lee’s To Kill a Mockingbirdfor the stage, award-winning scribe Aaron Sorkin looked at the iconic characters of the recently named “best-loved” American novel with fresh eyes. In this exclusive series, Broadway.com talks with Sorkin and the talented performers who bring the citizens of Mayomb, Alabama to life every night at the Shubert Theatre.
GBENGA AKINNAGBE AS TOM ROBINSON WATCH VIDEO:
CHARACTER: Tom Robinson, a poor African-American farm worker who is accused of rape and put on trial in 1930s Alabama.
ACTOR: Gbenga Akinnagbe is new to Broadway, but a regular i\on film and TV. He’s best known for his roles on two HBO series: the well-loved The Wire and, currently, The Deuce. On the New York stage, he’s appeared in Henry V at the Delacorte Theatre and at the Public Theater in The Controversy of Valladolid and A View from 151st Street. His other recent theater credits include The Rainmaker at the Old Globe Theatre, Fulfillment at the Flea Theater and The Thin Place at Intiman Theatre.
GBENGA AKINNAGBE ON PLAYING TOM: “He’s in a very racist town in a very racist time and he doesn’t let that engender hate in him. It’s one thing to be able to survive a tough life, but to be able to survive it with your light intact makes you strong. And that’s Tom Robinson. I can aspire to such humility, to such grace. I don’t always achieve it but it’s very inspiring to be able to play a character like that on a nightly basis.”
AARON SORKIN ON GBENGA AKINNAGBE: “Gbenga is smart. Actors can’t fake smart. Gbenga is strong, and actors can’t fake strong. They can fake tough, but they can’t fake strong. Tough is usually what you do when you’re not strong, and you’re trying to give the impression that you are. I can’t imagine anyone but Gbenga playing the part.”
Photographed at the Shubert Theatre by Caitlin McNaney for Broadway.com
A new Lompoc business will look to introduce itself to the community this weekend by sprucing up some local hairstyles while at the same time raising funds to help restore a historic Lompoc institution.
The owners of Cosmoton Academy, a barber and hair school that began operation in January at 1013 North H St., will host a “Charity Cut-A-Thon” from 10:30 a.m. to 2:30 p.m. Saturday, April 20. During the event, attendees will be able to get a haircut from one of the school’s students by making a $5 donation that will go to the Lompoc Theatre Project, a nonprofit organization that is working to revitalize the downtown Lompoc Theatre.
The academy is run by married couple Laura and Michael Funkhouser, both of whom are also instructors. Laura said they have held similar fundraisers in other communities where they’ve lived and worked — most recently in Santa Barbara — and that they were excited to bring the “Cut-A-Thon” concept to Lompoc.
“It’s just a really fun event to give back to the community and the students really like it because they get to do lots of haircuts,” she said.
Laura said she and her husband decided to have the event support the Lompoc Theatre Project after learning about that organization shortly after moving to the area.
“We feel like what barbers do is art,” she said, “and the Lompoc Theatre Project felt like it’ll be a really cool thing to bring art and entertainment and creativity into the community.”
During the “Cut-A-Thon” hours, it is expected that seven of the academy’s students will be performing the cuts. Laura noted that there will likely also be a few professional hairstylists who will volunteer their time to support the event, and that a bake sale may be held to boost the fundraising.
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