The executive director of the Liberty Theatre Cultural Center is seeking $15,000 in donations by Saturday after heavy rain damaged the stage area Wednesday at the 823 Eighth Ave. complex.
Donations are needed to move the production of “Go Tell it on the Mountain” to the auditorium at Carver High School and take care of the roof repairs at the center, said Shae Anderson, executive director. At least $5,000 will go toward costs to move, rental and other fees.
“A venue rental wasn’t in the budget,” Anderson said of moving the production with about 35 people to the high school. “That’s why we put out a call to the community.”
Anderson said the Wednesday storm dumped enough rain on the city to damage the stage area at the theater. The building had smaller leaks in other parts of the facility before the storm but none were in the stage area. Water damage caused the lighting system to short out and large leaks developed directly over the stage.
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Moving the production that is loosely based off of Langston Hughes’ “Black Nativity” will allow the staff to complete months of work, including five to seven days a week of practice, to perform. The production has props still under construction, a set, costumes and racks that must be moved and prepared for Saturday’s performance.
“The show must go on,” Anderson said late Thursday.
A forecast with a 90 percent chance of more rain this weekend contributed to efforts to find a new venue for the production.
The theater opened in 1925 as a place to show motion pictures and it featured a stage for musical performances. It was a key venue for entertainment for nearly 50 years until 1974 when the building fell into disrepair.
Marian Anderson, Ella Fitzgerald, Ethel Waters, Lena Horne and the city’s own “Ma” Rainey once performed at the Liberty Theatre or got their start there.
It was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 1984. By 1993, a $1 million grant was secured to restore the Liberty. It reopened in 1996 as a Performing Arts Cultural Center to host musical events and plays.
The executive director said the theater belongs to the entire community. Anyone who wants to make a donation may stop by the 823 Eighth Ave. center on Friday or call 706-653-7566.