Rebuild of Greensburg theater breaks ground

07/16/2011 12:00 AM

07/18/2012 8:28 AM

It began in 1917 as the Auditorium, the only theater between Kansas City and Denver. The 1920s transformed it into the Twilight Theatre, a public meeting place and entertainment center in Greensburg for the next 80 years, until the tornado took it with the rest of the town in 2007.

Now it is beginning a new chapter in its history as the Greensburg Twilight Theatre & Community Auditorium.

City officials and community and business leaders will break ground today on the $2.7 million project, which will be built on the corner of South Main and Florida.

"After the tornado, it was only a matter of time before the community got behind the idea of rebuilding the theater," said Kim McMurry, a Twilight Theatre board member. "Getting the Twilight rebuilt will absolutely boost the morale of our community."

The theater is slated to open in May 2012, the fifth anniversary of the tornado that destroyed the city.

The Twilight's board of directors has made it a priority to incorporate the best elements and traditions from the theater's past with modern technology. The theater will include a digital projection system, allowing live events to be streamed to the 53-foot screens.

Bill Warren, owner of Wichita's Warren Theatres, said the Twilight will be the nicest combination of theatre and community auditorium in rural America. He has played a key role in equipping and designing the art deco-themed theatre.

"Right now, we're used to driving to Pratt and Dodge to see movies or go to plays or concerts, even driving 100 miles to Wichita for this type of entertainment," McMurry said.

"The Twilight will be one more draw for downtown Greensburg in terms of new jobs and tourism, one more reason for people to visit our community and maybe to inspire them to continue to return."

In addition to the theater, community officials plan to develop a community theater program that will enable education in filmmaking, acting, screenplay writing, set design and construction, wardrobe, makeup, lighting and sound system control.

"When we look at our pool of volunteers to assist in the running of the organization, we're going to make sure we have an educational process that encourages work skill development in the performing arts," said Charles Miller, the board's chairman. "Not only being an actor or actress, but also a playwright, a set or costume designer, those in lighting, sound control."

Weddings, birthdays, school activities and anniversary receptions will be accommodated in the new venue.

"We're going to have a significant impact on the local community, the county community," Miller said.

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