MANSFIELD — Recreating the fabric panels from the 1940s that have long graced the walls of the Renaissance Theatre in Mansfield took over a year for Michael Miller, the venue's president and CEO.
Miller went through 12 different color samples, trying to match the colors and patterns to the original 200 yards of material. The design is a perfect match, but the coloring was tougher to replicate, as the fabric has faded over the years and sustained water damage, making it difficult to tell what the colors looked like more than 70 years ago, Miller said.
"That process has been a very challenging one, to say the least," Miller said.
The fresh fabric panels and new LED lighting in the chandelier are two of the big changes theatre-goers can look forward to when the Renaissance celebrates its 90th anniversary with events from Thursday, Jan. 18 through Saturday, Jan. 20.
The staff has been working around the clock to get the restorations in place in time for the upcoming weekend of events.
The celebration kicks off on Thursday at 7 p.m., when the theatre will show "The Shawshank Redemption" on its newly restored 35 millimeter projection system.
The film, based on the Stephen King book, was filmed in Mansfield and had its world premiere at the theatre in 1994. Tickets for this event are $5.
On Friday evening, the Renaissance will present "Murder Mystery at the Ohio Theatre," an interactive experience, which is limited to 100 guests who will try to solve a murder mystery inspired by the 1929 unsolved murder that took place at the theatre.
Tickets for that event are $25, which includes hors d’oeuvres. Since availability is limited, it is unlikely tickets will be available at the door for that event. To reserve your spot, call 419-522-2726 or visit mansfieldtickets.com.
But the capstone event is Saturday at 7 p.m., when the Renaissance will recreate its opening night from 90 years ago with a vaudeville dance act from Neos Dance Theatre, followed by a screening of Clara Bow’s "Get Your Man," the same movie that was shown on the theatre's opening in 1928, which will include accompaniment by a Mighty Wurlitzer.
Prior to the screening of the fully-restored film, 150 guests can attend a 90th Anniversary Celebration Dinner at 5:30 p.m. at the former Mansfield Women’s Club across from the Renaissance Theatre. The dinner will feature a menu of roasted chicken, stuffed peppers, garlic mashed potatoes, vegetables, salad and dessert, served with specialty Cypress Cellars Renaissance Red and Renaissance White wines, created for the anniversary.
Following the screening, a chamber group from the Mansfield Symphony will perform in the lobby, accompanying a cake and champagne toast to the theatre.
The Renaissance will close down Park Avenue West for a red carpet entry to the dinner and the event in front of the theatre from 5 to 8 p.m. Tickets to the 90th Anniversary Celebration are $28 and on sale now at the Renaissance box office, online at MansfieldTickets.com, and via phone at 419-522-2726.
The latest round of renovations began four years ago when the theatre got its new roof and exterior bricks, thanks to a grant from Richland County.
"We repaired a lot of the damaged areas outside, because that was causing a lot of moisture to come into the theatre," Miller said. "The plaster was damaged in several areas, especially the back of the theatre and the center dome."
Once the outside was repaired, the dome got a facelift with a $100,000 repainting and re-plastering of the center chandelier.
The final process was to reloom all of the fabric walls, which were likely installed after World War II, based on the material used.
"They were looking at ways of acoustically treating the theatre, because they didn't really do that when it was built," Miller said. "The fabric panels were put up – they're decorative and acoustical."
The theatre, originally named the Ohio Theater, originally cost the Variety Amusement, Inc., a theatre management company owned by Ike and Jacob Silverman from Altoona, Pa., $500,000 to build.
The name was changed in the 1980s to the Renaissance Theatre when it went through a $2.4 million renovation.
The architect, Nicola Petti, who designed the Renaissance died young and only designed a few theaters, Miller said, making the Renaissance unique.
"I truly believe that for the Mansfield community and the surrounding areas, it's truly a gem," Miller said. "A gathering place, for people of all ages, all ethnic backgrounds. It's not only the social element that Mansfield has, but it represents the arts and culture I think we do really well with in our community. You look at all the arts culture in the area, and I think the Renaissance is really just that crowning jewel."