Cincinnati's Emery Theatre is 100 years old this year and will be center stage for a celebration next week. A group called the Requiem Project hopes to restore the old theater and turn the surrounding space into an arts center. They kick off that effort with a fundraiser next Friday. But today, they gave Local 12's Joe Webb a tour of a place that is "So Cincinnati."
Hidden behind a red brick Gothic façade on Walnut is a huge piece of Cincinnati's arts history. The Emery Theatre was originally designed to be the auditorium for the old Ohio Mechanic's College. Benefactor Mary Emery decided she wanted more and turned it into a 2200-seat performance hall with uncanny acoustics. "Over the years it has been deemed to...rivaled by Carnegie Hall... To be one of the best if not 3 best theaters in the country."
Tina Manchise and her cohorts in the Requiem Project are working to turn around the Emery's decline. Over the last 100 years, people have filled seats for the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra, Gershwin and more recently Riders Radio Theatre and Garrison Keillor. Hundreds of troupers have signed the backstage walls with chalk. The Emery was a place to be and be seen. "In the late 90's the theater actually closed. So it's been many things to the city throughout history but unfortunately the last 15-20 years it's been less used than it should."
The mighty Wurlitzer organ has been relocated to Music Hall, the old sign is laying on its side inside but most of the historic theater is intact .... just showing its age. There's a lot more than meets the eye to the Emery Theatre. Above that 60 foot ceiling is a 6 foot attic and then an old gymnasium. They hope to renovate and use that space, as well as the theater.
The goal with the whole project is to gently fix, and upgrade things. "So it's not a total renovation of the structure so it looks brand new. It will retain a 100-year history."
As the curtain goes up on this project, the hope is the Emery will be another arts anchor in the neighborhood. And enjoy another 100-year run for a venue that is So Cincinnati. For more on the fundraiser, click here.