Virginia Theatre Cancels Cosby Appearances
Two performances at Champaign's Virginia Theatre by Bill Cosby scheduled for next April 11 have been cancelled, in the wake of numerous sexual assault allegations.
Other appearances around the country by the comedian, as well as TV programs, have been cancelled in the last few days.
The Champaign Park District, which owns the Virginia, reached out to the promoter for the two performances.
"With the stories increasing, and the issue, it seems like it keeps growing, we felt it best at this time that it wasn't appropriate for the park district to move forward with this show," said Champaign Park District Executive Director Joe DeLuce.
DeLuce said refunds are available on Monday for those who purchased tickets by calling the Virginia Theater box office at 356-9053.
He said the park district is working with the same promoter, which is handling other Virginia shows, including a capella group Straight No Chaser in December, with hopes of filling the April 11 slot with another performer.
Coming up Saturday, August 9th, in Champaign at the Virginia Theatre, a gala event--including a red carpet walk--for a project called Pens to Lens.
The historic Virginia Theatre in Champaign will be open for public tours, Saturday, April 13, from 1 until 5 pm. It’s the first chance many people will have to see the theater's interior since third phase of an expensive renovation project began.
The Champaign Park Board expects to decide next month whether extensive upgrades to the Virginia Theatre will be done at all once, or in installments.
The board is still weighing which option is the best advantage in terms of cost, and the schedule of movies and live shows in downtown Champaign's old vaudeville house.
Regardless, the Virginia is expected to close for work in May, following Roger Ebert's 14th Annual Film Festival. It includes paint and plaster restoration, lighting, new seating, and handicapped-accessible facilities. In 2010, the Park District learned it had been awarded a $500-thousand state grant for some of that work. Spokeswoman Laura Auteberry says getting that money could be in question, but the $3-million in renovations will take place regardless.
"It's a reimbursement process," she said. "So there's just always some concern with the financial state that the state of Illinois is in as to whether or not we would actually get our money. But as far we've been told, the money is there, it's in the budget, it's guaranteed. And it can't be used for anything else."
Auteberry says finding the natural progression for that work has slowed things down.
"And trying to identify what that natural progression should be has taken quite a lot of time," Auteberry said. "You have ADA compliance issues, of course all the paint and plaster work that you don't necessarily want to do after you've put all new seats in. You don't want to do the paint and plaster work before you've torn the walls out do to the electrical."
With or without the grant, Auteberry says the work will get done, covering many expenses with reserves and general obligation bonds. The park board will set the theater's renovation schedule at its February 8th meeting.
Commissioner Jane Solon told the park board Wednesday night she recalls voting last year to do the work in installments. A record of that vote couldn't immediately be found, but Auteberry says the board can change its mind next month. If the Virginia work is done all at once, it's expected to take about 10 months.
And if the work is done in installments, Auteberry says one goal will always be to re-open in time for the film festival.
(photo courtesy of the Champaign Park District)
Champaign's Virginia Theatre re-opens this week after six months of privately funded work to the lobby and concession stand.
The downtown facility has yet to use $500,000 in state grant dollars for plaster work and theater lighting. But Champaign Park District spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said that work is expected to take longer, likely about eight months. With movie showings and concerts now scheduled into May, Auteberry said the park district will likely postpone closing the Virginia again until 2012. The schedule includes Roger Ebert's 13th Annual Film Festival.
Auteberry said lots of changes have already taken place since July, including paint and plaster work, a new concession stand, lighting, and carpeting extending into the upper lobby. The decision to move the state grant-funded work to will officially be made at the next park district board meeting Jan. 12. Auteberry said that is also when the board hopes to approve the design for a new marquee on the theater, after reviewing options from a sign company.
"They're going to be looking at redesigned designs, that Wagner (Electric Sign Company) has prepared, and hopefully deciding on a final design," Auteberry said. "Once we get a final design done, I don't think it will take them long to put it up."
The Virginia has been without a marquee the last several weeks. The park district board voted last summer to replace the sign with one resembling the 1921 original, despite complaints from local preservationists. The old vaudeville house re-opens Friday night for the annual Chorale concert. The park district also hopes to schedule an open house in February to show off recent upgrades.
Champaign's Virginia Theater is now without a marquee.
The sign that is been part of the theater since the 1940's came down Tuesday. The city's park district opted in June to replace it with one resembling the 1921 original.
Champaign Park District spokeswoman Laura Auteberry said it is likely the theater will re-open without the new marquee in place. The Virginia closed six months ago, so crews could redo the lobby, which included plaster and electrical work, and renovated concessions. Private donations paid for the project.
Preservationists have called the marquee the Virginia's most defining feature. Auteberry said the controversy that initially arose over replacing that sign prompted the park district to make it a separate project.
"We actually pulled it out of the original planning process for the renovation so that the (Park District) Board had an opportunity to further study what we were looking at doing, and the replacement options for the marquee" Auteberry said. "So the whole process just got started a little later than we had originally anticipated."
Auteberry said the Park District board will sign off on a design for a new marquee at its meeting next month. She said the board plans to hold a re-opening event, a kind of open house, sometime in January. The Park District contends a new marquee would show off more of the Virginia's architectural significance.
Preservation planner Alice Novak said the sign change could impact the theater's position on the National Register of Historic Places. She said she expects Illinois' Historic Preservation Agency will consider such a recommendation.
"It could possibly change the standing," Novak said. "I have no doubt that somebody will present materials to the Illinois Historic Preservation Agency to see about de-listing the building from the National Register."
Novak added that could hurt publicity for the old theater. She sits on the Illinois Historic Sites Advisory Council.
(Photo courtesy of Champaign Park District)
One of those responsible for changing the marquee on Champaign's Virginia Theatre says it needs to be recognized as more than a place for showing movies. Champaign Park District Board member Barbara Kuhl favors replacing the sign to make the theatre look more like a vaudeville house, as it appeared in 1921. Board members voted 3-2 for replacing the marquee that's been there since the 40's. Kuhl also says the current one needed replacing anyway. "The current marquee will be taken down and destroyed. It cannot be refurbished," said Kuhl. "So the question was not 'will there be a new marquee?'... it was just 'what was the shape of the new marquee going to be."
Those favoring the change say a new sign would show off more of the upper-level façade and original architecture. Urban planner Alice Novak says there's no doubt the Virginia is a beautiful building, but argues the park district is changing the most defining feature. Kuhl says the public opposition to changing the sign was blown out of proportion. But Novak says there was an obvious public sentiment for retaining the marquee, and the park district board chose to ignore it. "So I think that's very disappointing," said Novak. "And I don't know what the long-lasting implications of that kind of bad policy will be."
Novak sits on Illinois' Historic Sites Advisory Council, which reviews nominations to the National Register of Historic Places. Park District Board members contend the new marquee won't change that eligibility. But Novak says once the old one comes down - she'll submit photos of the Virginia to the rest of her group to consider a change. Champaign Park District Board President Jane Solon says she initially would have preferred the Virginia's next marquee be a combination of refurbishing the existing one, with features from the original sign's 1921 design. But she says public opposition convinced her that the best marquee was the one currently in place. "You can't marry two periods together and create a new that's not the best thing to do," says Solon. "So from a historical perspective and from what citizens had said they preferred, I then became in favor of keeping the triangle marquee."
Both board members say they hope the marquee change will be done when other renovations to the theater are completed. The Virginia closes next week for upgrades to its entrances and lobby, and re-opens in November. A million dollar bequest from the estate of Michael Carragher is funding that work, while ticket sales and other private donations are paying for the new marquee.
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