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Renovation has theater kickin’ it old school

Two spotlights on wheels flank the rows of theater seats like guardians. A ragged line of white primer paint encroaches on the old gold filigree above the stage. A thin layer of dust coats everything: the stage, the spotlights, the squeaky velvet seats. The grime mutes even the crimson curtains in man-sized splotches.

It may sound bleak, but Westwood Committee Chairwoman Ronalee Flansburg said that she sees past the mess to the potential.

“[Some friends and I] saw that it was for sale and just knew we had to do something about it,” Flansburg said. “I mean, my little girls might want to perform someday. Where else can they do it?”

Built in 1917 to show vaudeville and silent films, the theater is not equipped for theatrical productions, even after its restoration following the Teton Dam Flood.

“The lights kept flickering during our performances,” said JC McCann, who performed in a play at the Westwood Theater last summer. “A cole nights [of the play], they went completely off. We just had to pretend like it was part of the play.”

Two spotlights light the stage, and even those strain the theater’s older electrical system.
“We have to use a construction-grade power converter because the theater runs on ‘antique wiring,’ to put it in nice terms,” said Mark Sunderland, the technician for One Truth — He Lives, a play performed at the Westwood Theater last fall.

Healing what ails the Westwood may be complicated and expensive, but Flansburg said that it will be worth it, especially with the community’s help. Flansburg and her gro of friends took the matter to the City of Rexburg, who agreed to buy the building if the newly formed Westwood Committee would raise the money for repairs.

“We were surprised how easy [raising money] was,” Flansburg said. “People were eager to help. They donated service and splies. We got grants, and people in the community
put on fundraisers.”

The Westwood renovations are scheduled for completion in fall of 2008.The Westwood Committee will rename the theater “The Romance,” hoping to sweep away the dust and restore some of the sparkle of the 1920s and ‘30s.

“A lot of people had written this place off,” said Joanna Carter, a member of the Westwood Committee, during one of the theater’s many fundraising events. “It was doomed to be a parking lot, but, as you can see tonight, it’s full of lights and people and romance once again.”

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