The Historic Fox Theatre in downtown Centralia is on track to open its newly renovated doors this year and the organization has recently hired an executive director, Scott Stolarz, to oversee the theater operations and prep for the opening.
“It’s always great to get in on a community-fed project like this. My background is in historic theaters, I came from a 2,500-seat historic theater where I was the chief programming officer so I could really see what a historic theater meant to a community in a downtown area. To see the whole community get excited about it just makes it a really exciting project,” said Stolarz.
Stolarz studied music production at Elmhurst College in Illinois and most recently worked as a chief programming officer at the Embassy Theatre in Fort Wayne, Indiana.
“We’re really thrilled. This is a milestone for this project to actually be able to hire someone, a professional, to come to Centralia and take over the operation of this theater. This is something that we’ve been talking about doing for years and just getting to this point where we can just take things to the next level is a big thing for us,” said Scott White, president of the Fox Theatre organization.
Stolarz placed an emphasis on making sure the Fox Theatre provides top-notch quality programming and offers something for everybody to enjoy. He said that the important thing is that the entertainment is of high quality no matter the genre or style of entertainment.
“I’ll be doing a little bit of everything. A lot of it is going to be overseeing the implementation and operation of a lot of the systems that are involved in bringing in talent,” said Stolarz.
White said that they hold weekly meetings on Wednesdays to assess the progress of the restoration.
“We are on target to finish. We always need more money and we are definitely going to continue to fundraise, not only for this year but probably forever because that’s (what) nonprofits do,” said White.
Currently, the restoration crew is getting a lot of the framing put in place and preparing to start pouring concrete. After that is complete, the next steps would be to take down the false floor right below the ceiling, start painting and then get the 737 seats into the theater.
“We’ve had some great funding success and we are using that momentum now to get more money. A lot of the restoration is focused on making the theater more accessible— a place where everybody feels welcome and everybody can enjoy. This is all about accessibility and flexibility. We are flexible so we can have a lot of different events— there’s got to be something for everybody,” said White.
Into his second week on the job, Stolarz says he has been diving into everything— restoration, marketing, the budget, meeting everybody he can, learning about the history of the theater and its restoration over the course of the past 10 to 12 years and integrating himself into the community.
The next milestone the Fox Theatre restoration team is looking forward to is the restoration company Evergreene Architectural Arts, coming into the theater in April to start restoring the ceilings to as close to original as they can. Evergreene Architectural Arts is the nation’s largest specialty contractor for architectural arts, according to its website and specializing in returning historic buildings to their original glory.
“That’s huge bringing them in, they’re the top people in the business,” said Stolarz.