Lyric Theatre plans October reopening celebration

Lyric's reopening set for Oct. 28-31

bfortune@herald-leader.comAugust 25, 2010 

Extensive renovations on the historic Lyric Theatre, once a bustling entertainment center for Lexington's black community, are near completion, and a four-day reopening celebration will be Oct. 28-31, the Lyric's board announced Tuesday.

"Everything is on schedule. Construction will be finished Sept. 15, barring anything unforeseen happening," said Freda Meriwether, chairwoman of the board.

On Tuesday morning, Meriwether and others from the 15-member Lyric Theatre and Cultural Arts Center board of directors offered a sneak preview of the $6 million face lift of the theater at the intersection of East Third Street and Elm Tree Lane to approximately 40 prospective donors.

A national black artist is being lined up as the headline act for the reopening gala on Oct. 30. Meriweather said she could not release the name because details of the appearance were being worked out.

"Stay tuned. It's going to be exciting," she said.

Opening events include activities for children, a showing of the film Stormy Weather starring Lena Horne, an exhibition titled Rhythm in Relief by artist LaVon Williams; tours for the public; and other entertainment.

The board is in the process of hiring a director for the Lyric. About 10 applications were received, Meriwether said. "Hopefully, we'll know something soon," she added. And events at the Lyric are being scheduled.

"This is going to be a wonderful facility for everyone, not only in Lexington, but Central Kentucky and further," she said.

The theater had sat vacant since 1963 and had fallen into disrepair, until last summer when the renovation began, more than doubling the size of the Lyric from 13,000 square feet to 29,000 square feet, adding a 540-seat theater, multi-purpose space, outdoor courtyard for sculpture exhibits, a space for rotating art exhibits and a space for historic exhibits.

The city was required to renovate the Lyric as part of a 1996 lawsuit settlement with the state, which had sued Lexington for failing to build a promised cultural center downtown. The settlement directed the city to spend millions on a number of cultural projects, including the Lyric.

The Lyric is available for rent, and already events are being booked, said Joan Brannon, program director.

"A number of people have approached us about gospel performances, and jazz and Motown concerts," she said. A monthly lecture series offered in cooperation with the University of Kentucky African American Studies program starts Nov. 11.

Brannon said since the Lyric is so new, "It's taking us time to nail down performance contract details."

Announcements will be made in the next few weeks about upcoming events. To discuss renting the Lyric, contact Brannon at (859) 684-0458.

Reach Beverly Fortune at (859) 231-3251 or 1-800-950-6397, Ext. 3251.

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