Former Egyptian theatre executive director leaves lasting legacy


Courtesy of the Egyptian Theatre

Angela Butera, Reporter

DeKALB- Former executive director of the Egyptian Theatre, Barbara Kummerfeldt died Wednesday at the age of 87. 

Kummerfeldt’s two-decade history with the Egyptian Theatre, 135 N. Second St., started during the late 1970’s when she, along with her husband Irv Kummerfeldt, were part of the original steering committee that was instrumental in saving the Egyptian Theatre from a literal wrecking ball, according to an Egyptian Theatre press release.  

Unfortunately in the mid to late 70’s, the theatre was falling into disrepair. The previous owner went bankrupt. The theatre was going to be condemned and torn down by the City of DeKalb. Rain and snow would leak through the roofing, walls were crumbling throughout the theatre, the basement was flooded and rodents ran rampant. 

It is because of the immense perseverance of those early volunteers, including Barbara, that saved the Egyptian Theatre and helped cement its place in DeKalb for generations to come, Executive Director Alex Nerad said. 

Courtesy of the Egyptian Theatre

“Barb retired from the Egyptian Theatre in 1998, long before any of our current staff had started working here,” Nerad said. “While none of us had the opportunity to work with her during her tenure at the Egyptian Theatre, her legacy here is a permanent part of the Egyptian’s history.  Without her perseverance, the Egyptian Theatre would not be standing today.  We are all grateful for her immense efforts that allow all of us to enjoy the Egyptian Theatre as the crown jewel of DeKalb.”

After many years of hard work, Barbara and her committee got the theatre onto the National Registry of Historic Places in 1978 and created a non-profit organization, Preservation of Egyptian Theatre. 

“When I first came to NIU/DeKalb, Barbara Kummerfeldt was one of the first people to welcome me and got on the bandwagon of supporting the NIU Show Band,” said Michael Embrey, who presented shows at the Egyptian Theatre during Kummerfeldt’s tenure, in the release.

Barbara had a big heart for Dekalb and the people in her community. 

“The method to her madness was getting me to support her and Irv’s efforts in saving the Egyptian Theatre. DeKalb will forever be indebted to Barbara Kummerfeldt for her love, commitment and preservation of the theatre – a DeKalb Treasure,” Michael Embrey said.

Barbara was a determined woman who devoted a lot of time and effort in keeping the Egyptian Theatre in great shape. 

“It’s very possible that we would have never seen the revitalization of the Egyptian Theatre if it had not been for Irv and Barbara Kummerfeldt,” Mayor Jerry Smith said in the release. “As a matter of fact, this community treasure might not even be intact had it not been for the dogged determination of the Kummerfeldt over 40 years ago.  We will continue the celebration of Barb Kummerfeldt’s life later this year, as we look forward to a gala grand opening of the Egyptian Theatre.”