Denver arts get a boost with Elitch restoration
DENVER – The Mile High City’s thriving arts community is getting another boost with the $14.2 million restoration of the historic Elitch Theatre, a venue modeled after Shakespeare’s Globe that hosted Douglas Fairbanks, Sarah Bernhardt, Edward G. Robinson, Grace Kelly and a host of others.Clark Gable didn’t get hired. He was told to get his ears fixed.
In the 1940s dancers jitterbugged to Glen Miller in Elitch’s Ballroom.But the 115-year-old Victorian Elitch Theatre in north Denver has been shuttered for a decade since the amusement park that surrounded it was sold and moved.Groundbreaking begins Monday for the Center for American Theatre at Historic Elitch Gardens.
“We are not simply saving a historic building, we are creating programming there for the next 100 years,” artistic director Kevin Causey told The Denver Post.The project has gained bipartisan support. “Denver has a long, rich history in the performing arts and the historic Elitch Theatre is one of the jewels of that history,” said Mayor John Hickenlooper.Last fall Denver got a new opera house. The Denver Performing Arts Complex, with 10,800 seats in ten venues, is the second-largest performing arts center in the nation.
Work is being completed on a $90.5 million new wing on the Denver Art Museum by Daniel Libeskind, and the Denver Museum for Contemporary Art is getting a new $15 million home. Abstract Expressionist Clyfford Still’s family donated his paintings to Denver for another new museum.It is hoped that plays can begin at the new Elitch Theatre as early as 2008 but work will have to start from the ground up. Because it was only open summers, it was built without a foundation, a heating or wiring system. It will require a new exterior and interior. Seating will be reduced from 1,300 to 800 and made more cushy.Promoters hope chic restaurants and boutiques will be drawn to the site.
In addition to political support, Debbie Reynolds, Cloris Leachman and Patty Duke are all on the advisory board.This summer’s session of film, live music and comedy will be dedicated to Neil Simon. “It’s very nice, and I am honored to be the first,” he told The Post. He said his only regret is that theatre can’t be part of the first year of programming “because I think some of my plays came out a lot better than the films.”Once it is fully operational, the theater will put on two big productions each year and invite other theaters to use its space.
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