Sun Theater Renovation is Underway

By 9th Grader Joel Breeden, member of the Website Reporting Club The Sun Theater, located directly behind the main school building of GCAA, is in the process of becoming GCAA’s own theater for musicals, plays, and concerts featuring GCAA’s orchestra, band, choir, and dance performers. The 30,000 square foot theater will also include three classrooms and a backstage workshop. Along with the other members of the GCAA Website Reporting Club, I recently had the opportunity to interview Ms. Katherine Palmer, GCAA’s Community Development Coordinator, on the topic of the Sun Theater. In 1913, the Sun Theater was established as a 1,800 seat theater known as “The Victoria” or “The German Theater,” and it originally cost $120,000 to build. The first floor of the theater was used for German plays and Operas. The second floor was used as a lecture hall. Because of anti-German sentiment caused by World War I, however, the theater was shut down. After the war, the theater reopened as “The Liberty.” Over the years the theater has been used as a movie theater, vaudeville show, burlesque hall, a night club and apparently even a church. The shows staged in the theater changed throughout the theater’s life right along with the names of the theater; it has been called “The World,” “400 Club,” The Lyn,” and it is currently it is called “The Sun.” In 1981, the theater’s doors closed and they have not reopened since. Even with Grand Center, Inc. buying the land in the early 1990s, the only sign of life has been the big neon sign out front. The theater has been in a great need of a renovation. "The whole place on the inside looks like a bomb went off," according to Ms. Palmer. The photos included with this article demonstrate the extent of renovation work needed. These photos were taken about one month ago by GCAA Website Reporter JuJu Vieth. Ms. Palmer told the Website Reporters a story she heard during a recent tour through the vacant theater: "A man went in there back in the early 1990s and he said that in the middle of the stage, there was just a huge mound of stuff and he had no idea why this mound was in the middle of the stage. Come to find out, it was pigeon poop!" On January 8th, 2013, The Lawrence Group (led by CEO Steve Smith) bought the property, and the renovation of the Sun started on January 9th. The whole process will take between one year and 18 months to complete. This puts the theater’s completion prior to the summer of 2014. The Lawrence Group will serve as the architects for the renovation as well as the general manager and designers. After the renovation, Grand Center Arts Academy will be signing a lease to use the Sun Theater with Landmark Group. In addition to using the Sun for its own performances, GCAA will also rent out its space at the Sun Theater to other schools and civic groups. After the 11.5 million dollar renovation, our two-block area will become more of a school campus. Given that the Sun will include three second-floor classrooms, GCAA students will be using the Sun on a daily basis. There will be a new elevator attached to the building for easier access to the second floor. The Sun will also contain a workshop where GCAA students will learn to build theater sets. Another great opportunity this theater will give our kids will be summer classes. Mrs. Palmer described another possibility: "Imagine if we had a summer class and you studied [Alfred] Hitchcock, and how he made movies and then you tried to recreate a Hitchcock movie and we had this great big screen come down onto the stage. Can you imagine if your video could be shown?" Grand Center Arts Academy was first a dream for teenagers in the St. Louis area to express themselves in the arts. This dream has become more and more a reality. This dream first started in Third Baptist Church, our first home to our students. One year later, the dream picked up and moved one block up to its new and permanent home on North Grand Boulevard. Now, we look forward to the completion of our newest expansion, the Sun Theater. [This article was written by GCAA 9th Grader Joel Breeden, a member of the GCAA Website Reporting Club]. [slideshowgallery]