Arts community shaken by Missouri Theatre closure

Wednesday, July 21, 2010 | 7:25 p.m. CDT; updated 10:08 p.m. CDT, Wednesday, July 21, 2010

COLUMBIA — The temporary closure of the Missouri Theatre left many leaders in the arts community saddened and uncertain about future uses of the venue.

True/False co-director David Wilson said he met with organizers from the Missouri Theatre Center for the Arts last week but did not learn of the theater's closure until today. He said he hopes the film festival will be able to use the theater this year.

"We love the venue," Wilson said. "We loved the venue when it was a crumbling movie palace."

He said the theater was built to show movies and is still great in that role.

Wilson said there aren't many venues in the world where filmmakers can stand on a stage in front of 1,200 people after showing a movie.

Lovers of various genres of music cited the Missouri Theatre’s architecture as a primary reason they perform on its stage.

“The acoustics are the best in town,” said Lucille Salerno, artistic director for the J.W. "Blind" Boone Ragtime and Early Jazz Festival. “I feel bad not just for the ragtime festival, but for our town, as the theater is a jewel."

She said the theater has a vintage feel and is the perfect size for the ragtime festival, which celebrates Missouri as the "birthplace and cradle of ragtime."

"It was a little bit of heaven," Salerno said, citing the parties held on the roof of the theater during the 2009 ragtime festival.

Alex Innecco, artistic director of the Columbia Chorale and the 9th Street Philharmonic Orchestra, sang in the Missouri Theatre for the first time in 1992 as part of an opera. He said he loved the theater, even though it was an old building and called the theater "extremely comfortable" for performers.

Innecco is conducting a concert titled, "Who's Afraid of Classical Music," scheduled in the Missouri Theatre for Sept. 25. He said if the theater is unavailable, the concert will be held across the street in the sanctuary of the Missouri United Methodist Church.

The next MU School of Music event in the theater, a jazz band concert, is scheduled for Sept. 23. Robert Shay, director of the MU School of Music, said the closing will not affect the school's programming as long as it is temporary. Shay said the theater is a facility that many people in Columbia need.

He said it is the best available place for the school, as the players can hear each other and make adjustments on the stage.

"The acoustics (in Jesse Hall) are not nearly as good as they are in the Missouri Theatre," Shay said.

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