By Kevin Edwards
BC Staff Writer
Delta Arts Alliance celebrated the reopening of the Ellis Theater and the newly renovated stage Friday with a member’s only event.
The theater has gone under extensive repairs and refurbishments, with new walls, flooring, and specially-crafted guardrails made by Delta State University art professor Michael Stanley and retired professor Ron Koehler.
“It is indeed a happy day for all of the Delta Arts board, both past and present, and I could not be happier to be standing in this room tonight,” said Hilda Povall, treasurer of the Delta Arts Alliance board. “It has been such a long time coming and I have to say there were those who thought it would never come but here we are.”
Povall gave a history of the Delta Arts Alliance, explaining its role in filling a gap in arts education in the Mississippi Delta.
“Along the way, rehabilitating the Ellis Theater became a second mission so that we could provide a home for all of our programs as well as saving a downtown, special Mississippi landmark building.”
The Ellis Theater was, at the time, in a state of disrepair.
“I remember writing a comment, a story about the building and I said something about the status of the building, and as soon as it came out in the paper and I read it and I regretted what I had said,” Povall explained. “It was not a very nice thing to say but it was true.”
Cleveland, under the leadership of former mayor the late Martin King, provided the theater and the next door service station to DAA for promises of revitalizing the two buildings.
Now the Ellis Theater is revived, and the former gas station serves as the Delta Arts Alliance dance studio.
Povall said that the stage in the Ellis Theater would be named in honor of Juliet Kossman, who once served as the leader of the Whistlestop Theater.
Honorary plaques will soon be installed on the sides of the stage along the stairwells to celebrate those who helped the theater’s renovation.
“The work that these people do is so valued and it is so amazing for the kids that are going to be able to perform on this stage,” said Cade Holder, who performed the story of the Three Brothers from Harry Potter at the event.
Cleveland Alderman Danny Abraham, artist-in-residence LaToya Calhoun, Bev Card and Trisha Walker all performed musical numbers.
“This is tremendously exciting and so intensely gratifying to stand on this stage and know where we are tonight, but it’s even more gratifying to know where we’re headed because of a space like this,” said Rori Herbison, executive director of DAA.
Herbison praised Bev Card for arranging the night’s lineup as representative of the pillars that have supported DAA: the artists-in-residence, the city and the community.