Egyptian Theatre to bring history seminar to NIU

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Parker Otto

DeKALB – Students at NIU will have an opportunity to learn about The Egyptian Theatre and the relevance it has within the DeKalb community. The Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., in the midst of celebrating its 90-year anniversary, will be hosting a learning session at 5 p.m. Monday at Barsema Hall, Room 300. 

During this session, students and members of the DeKalb community will have a chance to learn about the history of The Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., and the expansion the theater has been undergoing since May 2019.

Hosted by Shawn O’Neill, senior human resources management major and part-time development assistant at the theater since September, the session will include a recap of the theater’s first 90 years and the historic events it’s hosted, O’Neill said. 

Upcoming shows will also be discussed, but the main point is the expansion project.

The project will introduce an expanded lobby, restrooms and concession stands, a restoration of the theater’s interior and, for the first time in the theater’s existence, air-conditioning which will allow the theater to host summer programming. The expansion is projected to end in April.

“We’ve always wanted to communicate to NIU,” Jeanine Holcomb, marketing and communications director of the Egyptian Theatre, said. “Since we have a student working for us, we thought now was the time. It’s us communicating on [NIU’s] turf.”

Students are encouraged to attend this event, O’Neill said. They are welcome not only to learn about the theater but also to explore the possibility of volunteering, he said. 

The Egyptian Theatre is a non-profit organization meaning that few people who work there get paid. Instead, the theater is maintained by volunteers who clean the theater, work sound and lights and run the concession stands, among other duties.

Opened in 1929, The Egyptian Theatre was one of over 100 theaters constructed in an Egyptian style which became popular following the discovery of the tomb of King Tutankamun, according to the website of the Egyptian Theatre. Only seven of these theaters remain with DeKalb’s Egyptian Theatre being the only one east of the Rocky Mountain Range.

In 1978, the then dilapidated theater was added to the National Register of Historic Places, a subsidiary of the National Park Services. After the theater was put on the register, the restoration of the theater began in 1982 and was completed the following year. The theater has been screening films and hosting performance acts ever since.

O’Neill believes NIU students should be interested in attending programming at the theater because of its cultural significance to DeKalb.

“We get the best performers for reasonable prices so people can see a great live performance without taking a one or three hour drive,” O’Neill said. “Students can have an experience that they can take with them and even revisit the theater after they graduate because this theater will definitely be here for another 90 years.”