Q&A with Patrick T. Colvin of the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre

View of the stage from the main level of the auditorium.

I recently spoke with Patrick Colvin of the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre. The Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre own and are restoring the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.

1. Who are the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre?

“The Friends of The Historic Variety Theatre are a group of local, concerned residents, business people and experts in historic properties.”

A broken water fountain in the back of the auditorium.

2. How did you get involved with the restoration of the Variety Theatre?

“As Westown Board of Directors Vice-President at the time, and area resident- in 2007 not long after the Variety Board was formed- I was asked to take a position for outgoing board member Chad Dasher (Westown’s Executive Director) to report activities and updates back to Westown’s Board, in addition to the fact that I’m a BIG historic building preservation buff.”

One of two light fixtures that remain hanging on the balcony level of the theater.

3. Why is it important that the theater be renovated?
“The building complex is a classic example of 20th century neighborhood investment. A “city within a city” if you will. As an “Economic Engine” this complex of Theatre, apartments and storefronts can be the center of neighborhood redevelopment- bringing back the area with economic activity and vitality and just like the spokes of a wheel- spurring additional investment in the area.
The beauty of the original space just simply must not be lost and could never be replicated in this day.”

Some of the original seats remain on the main level of the auditorium.

4. How are the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre raising money for the restoration of the building?
“Currently, through small fundraisers and continuing awareness campaigns-several “pop up” events bringing people, residents and local merchants and artists together to see what great potential the neighborhood has. Additionally, we continue to have interest into “ghost hunts” by local and state groups wanting to tour the space and have developed a “tour fee” structure to help pay re-curring bills in the short term as we work out the final financing package with the bank to settle the financial difficulties we’ve encountered-as we work to gain “clear title”.
Once resolved- we can push for the larger fundraising drives needed to push the project to completion.”

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

5. What is your favorite personal memory about the theater?

“While I came into the Variety’s life in it’s later years- I remember the throngs of people who would come for a movie or a live show-to relax and enjoy the beauty of “The Lady on Lorain”.
It is perennial and cross-generational. The Variety is a GEM and crown jewel of this neighborhood and while she’s a bit tarnished- she will shine again. I remember those crowds and I continue to want to be part of the solution and help restore the beauty and granduer of this wonderful palace of entertainment for all to enjoy.”

More information can be found at the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre website: http://varietytheatrecleveland.com/

Chandelier in the Lobby
One of the original chandeliers that hangs in the entryway.
The lobby of the Variety Theatre.
The bottom sides of the auditorium were painted white when the theater was in use as a wrestling gym.

The Variety Theatre

View of the auditorium from the balcony.

The Variety Theatre opened on November 24, 1927 in the Jefferson neighborhood of Cleveland, Ohio. It was built by Sam Stecker, Meyer Fine and Abe Kramer of the Variety Amusement Company. The 1,900 seat theater was designed in the Spanish gothic style by Cleveland-based architect Nicola Petti, who also designed the nearby Cedar Lee Theatre. The Variety building also included retail space and twelve apartments.

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