It never fails.
Just as dusk falls, whether I am handling a telephone interview or tapping on a keyboard, a bright, enticing something catches my eye and I look up. Directly across the street is the Mohawk Theater marquee, ablaze with lights and offering a bright spark of promise on a Main Street corner.
Memories Of Movies At The Mohawk
Then, I look back....
It is a Saturday, mid-1960s, and my brother and I are eagerly awaiting a neighborhood teen-ager who's agreed to take us to the movies. Going to the movies is a big deal when you are a kid from Clarksburg. It's a chance to be in the city, choose your movie-munchies and perform a hasty search for the "good seats." "Movie Saturday" in the mid-1960s meant being privy to the magic that unfolded on a big screen - in Technicolor.
Later, another milestone: going to the theater, with friends, unchaperoned. We'd stand, parent-free, giggling and gossiping as we waited in line to purchase our tickets, secretly pleased when we'd aged enough to drop the phrase "one, under 12, please" from our vocabulary.
Today, the Mohawk stands unchaperoned, a lonely building donning an evening cloak of premiere finery and beckoning for crowds, for audiences, to fill its' empty interior. The marquee lights send a message out to passersby: "I'm still here. Do you remember me?"
Patrick Restores Some State Funds
An estimated $7.7 million theater renovation project, when completed, would likely restore the historical theater to its' place of prominence within the city's downtown and its' heart.
The renovation plans include an expansion of the stage house, a reconfiguration of a theater parking area, the construction of performer dressing rooms, theater restrooms, and numerous amenities. The project is anticipated to turn the space into a sought-after, star-quality performing venue.
Governor-elect Deval Patrick's decision to reverse budget cuts made by outgoing Gov. Mitt Romney means that $500,000 in state revenues should be awarded to the project. The project is currently funded with about $2.5 million secured by U.S. Sen. Edward M. Kennedy and monies raised through private contributions. The property benefits from historic site tax credits as well, said city Mayor John Barrett III.
And theater work that involves the demolition and reconstruction of a rear wall could begin in the spring, Barrett said. The planned endeavor will enhance a beautification project along the Center Street area, he noted.
Seeing Is Believing
Work at the site will deliver visual evidence that the project is moving forward, Barrett said.
"It's something tangible, something people can see," he said. "People will see this historic theater coming to life."
There's another "tangible" that would greatly benefit the renovation project: money.
Lots and lots of money.
"We Will Get This Done"
The Mohawk Theater is situated in a community without a significant corporate population, which means it is more difficult to secure corporate dollars for the project. There isn't a tremendous pool of private wealth in the city, as there is in other Berkshire communities.
"We are hoping for a benefactor to step forward," Barrett said. "So far, that hasn't happened. We don't have a big corporate presence here as there is in Pittsfield and we don't have the wealth that is in south county. Those things helped the Colonial and Mahaiwe [theaters]. We will get this done, it just takes longer."
"You have to realize this vision has been in place for 14 years, since [the city] bought it."
The Mohawk Theater project will, in the opinion of iberkshires, deliver much more than an elaborate building renovation. Plans for movie festivals, stage shows, concerts, plays, and other entertainment venues will restore luster and excitement to the downtown.
For those who love theater arts and performing, a renovated, open-for-entertainment theater just might allow you to be a player and a fan.
A renovated theater will add another dimension to the city and the Northern Berkshire region. The city would host one of the last art-deco designed theaters in the country and would see that space active, alive, and, we believe, very inviting to performers and visitors alike.
Hell, I think even the locals would like it.
With every year that passes, the project costs rise. The project's $5 million to $5.5 million estimates are up to over $7 million, and construction and material costs are not decreasing.
The Time Is Now
There must be a genuine public effort to help fund this project and further its' progress. Projects of this size require time to complete and the more time passes, the higher the price ticket will likely climb.
What the people of North Adams and the Northern Berkshires have always done very, very well, is support local projects and initiatives.
We at iberkshires agree with Mayor John Barrett III that the Mohawk Theater renovation is not only desirable but integral to a continued economic revival. A multi-dimensional theater will open new downtown opportunities and will inspire additional growth and development.
Donations of any size are welcomed and an uncomplicated, albeit imprecise, calculation proves how quickly modest individual donations can develop into significant wealth.
The Jewel Of Main Street
For instance, if every living Drury High School graduate from the Class of 1938 [when the theater opened] to the Class of 1986 [when the theater ceased to operate on a regular basis] contributed $10, the total acquired would be extremely significant.
Many area families enjoy weekly or monthly trips to a movie theater; if those families eliminated one "night out" in favor of a "night in" with a rented movie and microwave popcorn, and donated what would have been spent at a movie theater to the Mohawk project, more substantial financial gains would result.
It is truly time to shift the Mohawk Theater project from a "preview" to a downtown "main attraction." It's time to bring up the curtain and bring the entertainment back to the city.
The jewel of Main Street already shines every night; let's help the venue make some noise.
Information about the Mohawk Theater renovation project is available at the City of North Adams Office of Community Development, City Hall, 10 Main St., North Adams, Mass. 01247 or by calling 413-662-3025.
Contributions should be made payable to the Mohawk Restoration Fund.
Information and a history about the theater is available at a www.mohawktheater.com Internet web site.
Susan Bush may be reached via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org or at 413-663-3384 ext. 29.
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