Stark County is full of many attractions, some more well-known than others. Gary Brown brings our attention to the less-publicized places. This month: The Roxy Theatre in Minerva.
The Roxy Theatre still serves to entertain the community of Minerva.
“We just had a Classic Movie Night that was well attended,” said Denise Freeland, executive director of the Minerva Chamber of Commerce, which restored and now operates the 80-year-old former Dreamland Theatre. “We had a man from Carrollton, a singer and guitar player, perform here.”
Drama-loving judges and lawyers put on the “Andersonville Trial” at the Roxy in October, just as they had performed “12 Angry Men” in 2014. Performances in the Family Arts Series this year include the magic of Tim Angeloni (January 21) and a Tropic Sunsations Steel Drum Band performance at 7 p.m. April 1. And The Magical Theatre Company will perform the humorous and uplifting “Balloonacy” on February 12 and plays written by Minerva Elementary School students—“Kidscripts”—on March 25, both 2 p.m. Saturday matinee events.
Susan Powell Fahey, who operates a dance studio in the village, uses the Roxy for a soloist show each year.
“Primarily it’s used for events and performances hosted by the Chamber,” said Freeland. “But, we’ve had two weddings in the theater. One of them was a couple from Carrollton. They had met in the theater program (of their high school) and wanted to get married in a theater. It was really neat.”
The marquee of the theater congratulated the couple in bold public lights. The wedding party took pictures under the marquee, which itself has become a real source of community information, said Freeland.
“The marquee is used a lot for community programs and events,” Freeland explained, noting that local companies also advertise in the very visible downtown location. “People watch for what goes up on it.”
The Chamber of Commerce website includes a page devoted to the eight-decade history of the theater.
“The Dreamland Theatre was build in 1936 at the site of the current Roxy Theatre by George A. Swisher and was approximately half the size of the current structure,” notes the history. “It was purchased by Hazel Bruce and Douglas Brown of Ravenna in 1939. The W.W. Hoopes drugstore next door was razed, the theater was expanded to 50 feet in width, and the name was changed to the Roxy.”
The theater had closed in 1965 by the time investors Harry Osborne, Ralph Bevington and others purchased it, then renovated it, including bringing the projection system, some interior decor and the marquee from the Mohawk Theater in Waynesburg, the history recalls. So, the theater took on the name of that theater.
Bill and Beverlee Palmer bought the theater in 1972 and ran it for a year before leasing it to William Sellers, who operated it until 1980, notes the history. Then the Palmers turned the theater into a live show venue. A stage replaced the movie screen. The projection room was removed, and a dressing room was constructed. The sounds of stage shows, music mostly, were heard at the Mohawk.
“The Palmers leased the Mohawk to the Berean Bible Church in 1983 and sold it to the church in 1986,” says the Chamber history. “The church constructed an interior facade, lowering the ceiling and bringing the walls in to narrow the main house, which served as the sanctuary, and also added several rooms upstairs.”
It was in 2011 when the Minerva Chamber of Commerce purchased the structure. The theater took back the Roxy name. The Chamber installed a new marquee with its digital sign to emphasize that historically appropriate and familiar moniker.
Among the periodic events that Minerva residents, as well as audience members drawn from an increasingly larger drawing area, attend at the Roxy are the annual Celtic music and dance show, performances by Hall of Fame Chorus and concerts by the Minerva Community Band.
The Roxy website page explains that the theater can be rented for fees that range from $50 per hour through $250 per day to $600 per weekend. Marquee advertising can be purchased for $20 to $60 per month.
The restoration that the Chamber completed on the theater was done entirely with donated funds.
“When the Chamber bought it, it was not looking good,” Freeland said.
Freeland noted that in 2015, the Chamber worked with Sol/Harris Day Architecture to develop a long-range plan for additional work upgrading the Roxy. A bigger stage for dramatic performances are in that plan, as are updated heating and cooling systems and remodeled restroom facilities that are handicapped accessible.
“We’re looking forward to making it an anchor for our downtown,” said Freeland. “It’s a real blessing for a community our size to have a structure that serves as a performing arts center.”
[ 203 N Market St., Minerva | minervachamber.org/the-village-of-minerva/the-roxy ]