See Inside Akron Civic Theatre's Restored Grand Lobby, New Stage

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The Akron Civic Theatre is looking brighter inside and out.

Crews recently painted the grand lobby and arcade of the historic venue.

“I remember coming in when they built the scaffolding and it was like Leonardo da Vinci had arrived,” said Val Renner, associate director at the Akron Civic Theatre. “There were five levels of painters, there were at least 10 to 15 painters every day. And everything you see in the grand lobby was hand painted."

Scaffolding during the restoration work at Akron Civic Theatre

Elaborate scaffolding was necessary for the restoration work of the grand lobby at Akron Civic Theatre. [Akron Civic Theatre]

Nearly a century ago, people walked through the grand lobby on the way to their seats for movies and vaudeville acts. The theater opened in 1929 and has a Wurlitzer organ and orchestra pit from the silent movie era. But the whole theater experience was designed to extend beyond the stage. 

“It’s a Moorish design. So, there's Italian and Spanish influences,” said Akron Civic Theatre Executive Director Howard Parr. “The concept for the inside of the theater was an atmospheric design. So, you were supposed to feel as though you were outside while you were inside.”

The inside of the theater was restored in 2002, but that project stopped short of the lobby and arcade entrance. Nearly two decades later, an $8.5 million capital campaign allowed for the restoration of those spaces as well as other additions, including enhancements outside of the venue.

“Part of the entire concept was to make the outside of the building as much of an asset as the inside of the building,” Parr said. “We are adding an 18 by 35-foot video wall on the outside of the building, we're building an outdoor deck that will overlook Lock 3 Park and we're adding some additional public art to the outside of the building as well.”

Mural on the Lock 3 side of Akron Civic Theatre

Artist Ouizi created this mural on the Lock 3 side of Akron Civic Theatre. [Ideastream Public Media]

Recent murals on the Lock 3 and Lock 4 sides of the theater’s brick exterior both were influenced by the region.

“We brought in a national artist called Ouizi and she painted this beautiful mural of native species to Ohio,” Renner said.

Another mural depicts two children playing with a marble, symbolic of both the city’s history making toy marbles and “what we can be if we all play in the same sandbox,” Renner said.

Two mandalas behind the children also utilize the colors of the interior of the Akron Civic Theatre.

Mural on the Lock 4 side of Akron Civic Theatre

Artists El Mac and Aiseborn created the mural on the Lock 4 side of the Akron Civic Theatre. [Ideastream Public Media]

As part of the capital project, the theater also added a performance space adjacent to the theater’s entrance on Main Street. The newly created Knight Stage will add another 100 events to the theater’s annual calendar, Parr said.

The space also provides a home for its community companies Millennial Theatre Project and Boom! Theatre. The latter launched in July to provide opportunities for Boomers and GenXers.    

There is a community open house Sunday afternoon for the public to tour the Akron Civic Theatre improvements as well as other celebratory events throughout the week.

One thing to look for during a future visit: Loretta the parrot.

“She is a taxidermy, real parrot,” Parr said. “Her and another parrot flew around in the lobby free when the theater opened in 1929.”

Loretta the parrot at the Akron Civic Theatre

Loretta the parrot hangs on the wall of the Akron Civic Theatre's grand lobby. [Ideastream Public Media]

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