Did you know that May is National Historic Preservation Month? I didn’t. But now that I do, let’s talk about it!

We’re enthusiastic members of the League of Historic American Theatres (LHAT), and we’re all about preservation efforts for these old gems. Why? Theatres hold a special place in the hearts of many people. They are places of magic and invention; places where anything can – and just might – happen. These old buildings are a bridge between the past and present, connecting us to the people who occupied them decades ago. And if you do it right, a restored theatre can inject life and revenue back into the community.

With thoughtful upgrades, historic theatres can certainly compete with newer high-tech performance spaces. Think about it. Restoration expands technical capabilities, which in turn, support programming that meets the expectations of today’s audiences, thus reinvigorating streams of revenue typically associated with entertainment arts venues: ticket sales, concessions, subscriptions, program ads, donations, educational programs, etc.

Restoration and preservation are about more than just butts in seats, though. A forgotten space brought back to its former glory offers an intimacy many modern facilities can’t touch. Athens Theatre’s (Deland, FL) history page sums this up beautifully, stating that their “restoration [was] a direct result of public memory and community identity.” We here at IA Stage like that philosophy very much.

Several months ago, Florida Travel + Life featured an article titled 7 Stunning Historical Florida Theaters. IA Stage was involved with the renovations of three out of the seven! So take a trip down memory lane and check these beauties out.

IA Stage was involved with preservation efforts of the Athens Theatre in Deland, FL.

Athens Theatre in Deland, FL
Architect: R.J. Heisenbottle Architects, PA
General Contractor: E.D. Kenyon Construction Co, Inc.
Rigging and Orchestra Pit Lift Contractor: IA Stage
Drapery Manufacturer: IA Stage
AVL Contractor: Mavco

Mark Black of IA Stage says, “Volusia County is home to many of us at InterAmerica, so this venue was very special to us.  We crawled around in the attic with flashlights when the notion of renovating the space was in its infancy.  We are proud to have been a part of this.” IA Stage installed the overhead rigging equipment, drapes and track, front of house lighting positions, and all handrails throughout the theatre. We donated the main drape as well as the drapes in the balconies located on either side of the stage.

Exterior shot of the Cocoa Village Playhouse. Photo courtesy of Jeremy Phelps.Cocoa Village Playhouse in Cocoa, FL
Renovation Architect: Rood & Zwick, Inc.
Theatre Equipment Contractor: IA Stage
Structural Engineer: TLC Engineering for Architecture

On August 18, 1924, Cocoa’s first “talkie” movie house opened as the Aladdin Theatre. The storied venue was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1991 and was officially named The Historic Cocoa Village Playhouse. IA Stage was contracted in 2002 to provide a new stage rigging system, which included a new operating gallery and loading bridge. Structural additions (grid and head steel) were required to accommodate the new counterweight fly system. The majestic main drape, designed to look like an Austrian curtain, was designed and manufactured in our drapery shop here in Sanford. Nifty Note: The curtain may look like an Austrian, but it flies in and out like a Guillotine.

IA Stage was involved with preservation efforts of the Polk Theatre in Lakeland, FL.Polk Theatre in Lakeland, FL
Consultant: Mark T. Black, IA Stage
Structural Engineer: R.L. Plowfield and Associations

Designed by the architect J.E. Casale, the Polk Theatre opened in December 1929 as a vaudeville/movie palace. Casale designed the interior to look like a Mediterranean village, complete with a ceiling painted to look like the sky – with stars! IA Stage provided a comprehensive inspection of the existing stage equipment and stage tower roof structure, and an analysis of the theatre’s production needs. “The theatre is like a museum!” said Mark Black, president and founder of IA Stage. The study revealed the need to replace the existing spot line and sandbag hemp house rigging system with a full counterweight system. Additional head steel and roof framing steel was installed for structural enhancement.

Come back next week to learn about the recently completed preservation/renovation effort of St. Pete’s beloved Coliseum.