In Harrisonburg, we recognize the importance of standing up for what we believe in. After a recent survey’s results, the Arts Council of the Valley (ACV) launched a Save a Seat fundraiser, concluding that sitting down (comfortably) is also important to our community. After 18 years of patronage, with spare parts deplenished and the replacement parts unavailable for the theater’s 250 well-loved seats, Court Square Theater (CST) is in need of a pragmatic makeover which will enable our community’s residents to support the variety of shows, music, films and activities in comfort.
This is no regular theater. From 1890-1980, the theater’s current box office was the coat check from the Kavanaugh Hotel (Harrisonburg’s current police station). The steel beams in the ceiling are much thicker than typical steel beams due to the weight of the Ford Model T’s which were once constructed on the second floor of the Court Square Theater building during the 1920-1930s. This red-curtained venue filled with aroma of freshly-popped corn has an old-world feel with a diverse, modern approach to its features. A combination of its vintage charm, diverse programs and unique history are what make Court Square Theater a prominent cornerstone of the entire city.
ACV’s necessity to replace the seats isn’t negative or surprising, news; it’s quite the opposite. The Save a Seat campaign symbolizes 18 years of Court Square Theater’s ongoing and continuous use and patronage. With over half the funds already raised, residents are responding to the present need of our downtown theater. A theater itself is only a physical building, but the dedication of Theater Manager, Mark Finks, along with ACV’s staff and board members is it’s formula for success. Prior to joining CST, Finks was already an active member in our downtown community, coordinating arts-related events for downtown businesses. Now, settled into his role, he’s embraced and continued the tradition of transforming a building into a place where community members are not only entertained but are given opportunities to connect and learn.
Court Square Theater is an extraordinary place to many. The programming can range from a film on a Tuesday night and a burlesque lip sync battle on the following Wednesday. Our love for this theater is the reason its requiring a little extra TLC.
“Court Square Theater has been the backbone of the creative and cultural community of downtown Harrisonburg for almost two decades,” says Finks. “It is Harrisonburg’s community theater, and it belongs to the citizens. We try to reflect that in the diverse programming.”
After offering monthly art exhibitions, grants to support local artists and educators, and 18 years of events at our community’s downtown theater, the Arts Council is asking the community help to raise funds so that it may continue its mission: promoting the arts as fundamental to a vibrant community and providing memorable arts experiences for the City of Harrisonburg and Rockingham County.
Some of us are not affected by a few creaks, or uncomfortable seats–however, the Harrisonburg community we all love is not about standing up for ourselves, alone. Our community is about thinking about others and being a place in which we support those affected by what we may not always understand, yet, we try to. To many patrons, replacement of the seats is an important cause, and therefore, ACV has responded to these concerns in the same way that they do with their daily roles – with dedication.
We encourage you to stand up with our community and donate to the campaign or come out to the theater this Sunday. March 19th for a special event. The public will be invited to sing along with the Von Trapp family in a special screening of The Sound of Music. The event will help CST raise money to replace their veteran seats with ones which will serve our theater for many, many years to come! There will be a short presentation before the film about the campaign and ACV’s plans for replacing the seats.
Written by Angela Carter, an author, poet, motivational speaker, spoken word performer, visual artist, art director at the Artful Dodger and a framer at The Frame Factory. Her writing in her full-length poetry memoir, Memory Chose A Woman’s Body, was nominated for a 2014 Pushcart Prize. Her poetry performances have been featured in a multitude of venues including The KGB Club in Manhattan and Busboys and Poets in DC. Angela is an advocate of the healing ability of the arts. She, her husband, two daughters and two dogs reside in Harrisonburg, VA after relocating, from Bath, England, approximately 10 years ago. The Carters are proud to be a part of Harrisonburg’s growing, and caring, downtown community. Read some of her work here.