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Memorial Auditorium plans April Open House week

Brian Korthals/Daily Globe Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh stands on the balcony in the new lobby area of the remodeled Memorial Auditorium and Performing Arts Center in Worthington.

WORTHINGTON -- When Worthington's Memorial Auditorium celebrates its Open House week in early April, director Margaret Hurlbut Vosburgh is looking forward to witnessing the awe factor as it carries out on the faces of visitors.

The auditorium, after enduring a 9-month renovation and addition of a grand entrance, new box office, much needed restrooms and space for concessions, will open April 1 with the two-night performance of "Gone Country."

With the exception of some minor fix-ups and a thorough dusting of the stage and lighting equipment, work on the nearly $1.93 million project is complete. Vosburgh said they will regain occupancy on March 1, and that's when the doors will open for ticket sales for a number of upcoming shows.

"I think the public will be pleasantly surprised," said Vosburgh as she stood inside the grand entry to admire the art deco features incorporated into the addition.

"They tried to have continuity between the old and the new," said Janene Winters, box office manager.

The entry's brushed nickel chandeliers and sconces, tiered ceiling and wall, detailed wood trim and decorative limestone pieces salvaged from the former Central Elementary help maintain the art deco design used in the original construction of the auditorium, which was built in the 1930s.

Glass panels along the new stairway to the second floor theater seating area feature chevrons -- a military insignia -- to serve as a reminder of the auditorium's past. The building was originally dedicated as the War Memorial Auditorium in honor of all World War I veterans. In 1982, it was rededicated in honor of veterans of all wars up to that time.

Vosburgh said a new dedication will be conducted on April 1 and 2, this time recognizing veterans who have served in all wars and conflicts to the present time.

A half-cent local option sales tax that went into effect on June 1, 2009, is paying for the auditorium's renovation project. By the end of 2010, the extra tax had generated $1,015,542, according to Worthington City Administrator Craig Clark. The tax, which remains in effect for 10 years or until $6 million has been raised, will also help fund a local events center.

Clark said the renovated auditorium is "stupendous," and will greatly enhance the arts in the community.

"It's a great testament to the voters approving the half-cent sales tax," he added.

Joseph Co., of Austin, served as the general contractor on the expansion and renovation, with several local sub-contractors hired to complete specific portions of the project.

Showcasing talent

Several shows have been booked for the first week in April in conjunction with the Memorial Auditorium's open house.

"Gone Country," featuring a variety of talented local artists -- including the band Sideline -- will take the stage April 1 and 2, with shows beginning at 7:30 p.m. Each performance will include an on-stage dedication ceremony for the expansion project.

On April 4, IN Harmony and the Gospelaires will perform; and on April 5, the Great Plains String Quartet and the Worthington High School String Quintet will perform.

Worthington native Noah Hoehn will take the stage April 7, and Vosburgh is hoping to bring in a national touring act to finish out the week on April 9.

"With the open house week, we tried to bring in local people to build excitement," she said. The Monday, Tuesday and Thursday night shows will each begin at 7 p.m. and include a reception following the performance.

The variety and number of shows offered during the open house week are only a sign of things to come.

"We will bring in more shows and run 12 months of the year," Vosburgh said.

The Missoula Children's Theater has already been booked to come in this summer for a children's program, while Jason Olson will direct "Beauty and the Beast," with performances in August. Other events include performances by Cantaré! on April 28, the Eisenhower Dance Ensemble on April 30, choral concerts, dance recitals and a performance by Rhythmic Circus in June.

For more information and ticket sales, see the box office at the Auditorium. It will open on March 1 for sales, and is open from 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Monday through Friday.

Julie Buntjer

Julie Buntjer joined the Globe newsroom in December 2003, after working more than nine years for weekly newspapers. A native of Worthington, she has a bachelor's degree in agriculture journalism. Find more of her stories of farm life, family and various other tidbits at

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