APRIL 4, 2011 -- After extensive restorations and improvements, the Wildey will reopen its doors on Tuesday, April 12, 2011 -- that's exactly 102 years after its original opening in 1909.
The Wildey, which hosted live performances, films and meetings, closed its doors in the mid-'80s. After falling into disrepair, the city of Edwardsville acquired the building in 1999 and began planning its renovation.
"This is a critical project for the city and has tremendous support from approximately 500 donors contributing nearly $300,000," said Rich Walker, chair of the Wildey Development Committee and an Edwardsville alderman. "Every time we do an event at or about the Wildey, the response has been tremendous."
On the Wildey's Facebook page, which has amassed more than 1,600 fans, construction updates and event announcements pepper the page's newsfeed, but even more interesting are the memories shared in the comments. Fans have told tales of first dates at the Wildey, sneaking candy (and even themselves!) into the theatre, and working behind the scenes.
The theatre's Grand Re-Opening on April 12 also promises to be heavy on the nostalgia. This will be the first time many residents will have the opportunity to see the inside of the greatly loved theatre. Gracing the historic stage at the re-opening will be Jean Kittrell, rag-time piano musician, and the cast of Edwardsville High School's "Hairspray." The free event also features a ribbon-cutting and tours.
In April, the theatre is booked with live musical performances, classic movies and a special Easter treat with Bob Kramer's Marionettes. Several events have already sold out, Walker said.
Patrons should expect a unique experience at the 327-seat Wildey, Walk said. The theatre will not show first-run films, rather the Wildey aims to caputure the "Movie Palace Experience," he said.
"Currently, there is no theatre in Southwestern Illinois that presents such varied types of programming. The Wildey would create a new cultural opportunity in a historic but 'refreshed' atmosphere for patrons of all ages," Walker said.
The Wildey Theatre is located at 250 North Main Street in Edwardsville, Ill.
Photos by Scott Evers.