Wilmette Theatre invites everyone to Centennial Gala

Since April, when Wilmette Theatre supporters watched in delight as their Kickstarter campaign to raise $70,000 rocketed past that goal, things have been busy at the downtown arts and entertainment landmark, Carole Dibo said Aug. 20.

“More people are using this lovely old building,” said Dibo, the theater’s education and artistic development director, as she ticked off the progress made since the spring: two new digital projection systems (one courtesy of that Kickstarter), an expanded Actors Training Center curriculum that will bring new classes to Oak Park and new movies attracting more patrons.

The progress actually shines a light on how much further the building at 1122 Central Ave. has to go in its centenary year. For instance, more patrons means new challenges

“We had a line going out the door Saturday night, and there were people trying to get a drink from the water fountain, which isn’t working right now, and using the washrooms, which really need work!” she said.

The extra $17,436 earned last spring has helped Dibo and her team begin improvements necessary to keep the theater healthy, but it’s not enough to meet every infrastructure need.

That’s why Dibo is so excited about the Wilmette Theatre’s Sept. 13 gala Centennial Celebration, set to start at 6:30 p.m. in the historic Michigan Shores Club, 911 Michigan Ave. in Wilmette.

“It is going to be a great time. It’s going to be a party, not just any old fundraiser,” she said. “I’d get your tickets now.”

The Centennial Celebration is a 100th birthday party that will bring theater lovers, philanthropists, local businesses and fans of both Wilmette and the Wilmette Theatre together for one night of dining, dancing and entertainment.

The entertainment features the Sheridan Singers a cappella group and the nationally-known, vinyl-specialty disc jockey “Soul Call Paul” from Washington, D.C.

Dibo and special co-host, WGN radio personality Steve Cochran, are hosting the evening, which will raise funds for the theater’s artistic, educational and cultural programming.

The theater’s first century began in May of 1914, with a Mary Pickford movie shown to a 600 seat auditorium for 10 cents. In 1928, the year before the Great Depression, it got its first renovation, and a new magna screen projection system that showed “The Melody Man,” starring Buster Collier, Jr., and Alice Day.

Between 1951 and 1966, the theater turned from showing films to producing them, after Encyclopedia Brittanica leased it to create educational movies. Then Richard Stern bought it and returned it to its original purpose; for the next 40 years, Stern, whose family is credited with bringing “art films” to the Chicago area operated the two-screen cinema house.

In 2006, Stern sold it to the Wilmette-based Dibo family, and the Samuelson family of Evanston, a purchase that saved it from becoming a furniture store.

“While it is fitting that our historic gem get a birthday gala of this size, it is at the same time a bit surreal to see what was a dream in 2006 coming to fruition in 2014,” Dibo said.

Wendy Sharon, the theater’s executive director, praised volunteers and theater staff alike for working so hard on the birthday celebration. She also thanked local businesses for donations they’ve made to the theater’s causes.

“We are so lucky to be a part of a community that really understands the importance of supporting its local community theater. This event will not just be about celebrating 100 years of theater, but it will also celebrate the community as well,” she said

For information on how individuals, organizations and businesses can support the gala at various levels, or to buy celebration tickets for $150, visit www.wilmettetheatre.com.

Tags:

BIRTHDAY BASH

WHAT: Centennial Gala

FOR: Wilmette Theatre

ANNIVERSARY: 100 years

WHERE: Michigan Shores Club, Wilmette

INFO: www.wilmettetheatre.com

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