Egyptian Theatre historic seminar gives construction update

Parker Otto

DeKALB – Several features such as air-conditioning are being integrated into the 90-year-old structure as part of the current Egyptian Theatre’s expansion plan.

The progress of the Egyptian Theatre’s ongoing expansion project was relayed to the general public by theater staff during a learning session at 5 p.m. Monday in Barsema Hall.

Hosted by Shawn O’Neill, senior human resources management major and part-time development assistant at the Egyptian Theatre, the learning session explained the history of the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., the current construction and what members of the community can do to support the location.

Highlights of the expansion include the introduction of alcoholic beverages at concession stands, expanded bathrooms and the introduction of air-conditioning. With air-conditioning, the theater will be kept cool when it gets warm, allowing the theater to host programming during the summer for the first time since the theater opened in 1929, O’Neill said.

The updated theater will still reflect the art deco style of the 1920s and will remain on the National Register of Historic Places where it has been since 1978. The theater’s place on the register has kept it from being demolished. This was essential when the theater risked being torn down and turned into a parking lot before being renovated in the early 80s, O’Neill said.

Among the cosmetic additions is a new carpet pattern with various Egyptian symbols, including the scarab that adorns the stained glass window of the Egyptian Theatre.

The construction began in May 2019 and is projected to end in mid to late May, O’Neill said. The restrooms, which will be able to house 14 people each, are roughly 65 to 70% completed, and the expanded concession stands are in the process of being completed.

The presentation also addressed how members of the community can get involved with the Egyptian Theatre, such as by becoming a volunteer for the theater’s programming. To become a volunteer, one has to do one hour of training and then they can volunteer at any event. Volunteers can act as ushers, concessions stand operators and technical crew, according to the Egyptian Theatre’s website.

“This is the first year with year-round programming,” Alex Nerad, executive director of the Egyptian Theatre, said. “With this brings new challenges such as increased bills, and our small staff will have to stretch themselves [to cover different events], but we’re in a position to tackle the challenge.”

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