PlayhouseSquare announced on Saturday, March 14 the Ohio Theatre Lobby will undergo restoration thanks to a $3 million donation by the George Gund Foundation. This donation will allow the Ohio Theatre Lobby to be restored to its original 1921 architecture, which was destroyed by a fire.
After a fire on July 4, 1964, the theater closed down in 1969. It would have been completely destroyed if not for the efforts of a protest group led by Ray Shepardson. According to Cleveland.com, the group saved both the Ohio Theatre and the State Theatre, located next door.
The lobby was not restored until the mid-1980’s. Even then, the lobby was not fully restored to its former glory. Due to a lack of funding and time, the lobby was given an inexpensive and contemporary style still seen today.
A full restoration will begin on July 7, with a anticipated completion date of June 2016. According to Broadwayworld.com, the lobby will be protected by scaffolding during the restoration project, so there should not be any interruption in regularly scheduled performances.
According to CEO of PlayhouseSquare Art Falco, the lobby will be newly christened as the George Gund Foundation, once construction is finished. This is in honor of the generous donors who gave the largest donation PlayhouseSquare has ever received.
The new lobby, based on designs of the original that premiered on Valentine’s Day in 1921, will be collaboratively designed by EverGreene Architectual Arts and Cleveland architectural firm Westlake Reed Leskosky.
Jeff Greene, the president and founder of EverGreene, stated, “You will see a Phoenix rise from the ashes when we are done.” Turner Construction and the Coniglio Company are partnered as the construction team.
While some think this restoration is a great step for the theater, others believe that the theater should stay the way it is – beautiful. Freshman Marisa Foley said, “I have been to it [the lobby]. It is very beautiful as it is, but it does not seem like it needs to be changed.”
The restoration is part of the campaign, “Advancing the Legacy, The Campaign for PlayhouseSquare,” which plans on raising upwards of $100 million in order to, according to PlayhouseSquare’s website, “address our greatest needs.” So far, they have raised $57 million in the past year. The project chairs projected that $100 to $150 million would be raised in three to five years.
Editor’s Note: Information from Broadwayworld.com, Cleveland.com and Playhousesquare.org was used in this article.