The Overture Center for the Arts will open its newly renovated Capitol Theater Friday, marking the first completed step in the phase two construction process.
The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra is scheduled to perform Friday night in the theater's debut, a housewarming celebration for the orchestra's first-ever permanent home.
"The Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra has been a vagabond group for its 45-year existence," Tina Frailey, Overture Center director of press and community relations, said.
Michael Goldberg, interim president for Overture, said the Capitol Theater gives Overture the opportunity to run its own shows and performances.
"We, ourselves will be in charge of the programming for the Capitol Theater," Goldberg said. "We will provide a mixed bag of interesting and quality musical shows and theatrical performances. Overture will share the theater with the Wisconsin Chamber Orchestra and the Madison Family Theater, to whom the theater is a permanent home."
According to Frailey, the Capitol Theater will serve as the Overture's "in-between" theater. The Capitol Theater seats 1,100, as compared to the much larger Overture Hall, which seats 2,251, and the more intimate Rotunda, which seats approximately 100 patrons.
Goldberg said he is excited about the extra options the new theater will provide.
"There is no 'right size' theater," Goldberg said. "There are only theaters that fit the show you want to put on. If you're looking to put on a show where the right amount of seating is 1,100, then the Capitol Theater is for you."
Frailey said the theater also would feature a Duck Soup Cinema series beginning in November. The program will include a silent movie, accompanied by music played on the Grand Barton Organ, which was built in Oshkosh in 1927. The organ, according to Frailey, is meant to provide a sense of nostalgia.
"The organ and historic architecture has been preserved since the 1920s," Frailey said. "The theater is meant to give the audience an idea of what a theater was like in that time period."
Frailey said recreating a 1920s theater is natural for the auditorium because it originally opened as a silent movie hall, accompanied by the same organ, in 1928.
Renovating the space seven years ago was necessary because as motion pictures with sound became popular, the theater fell into decline and disrepair, Frailey added. In the 1970s, the Madison Civic Center took over the space and named it the Oscar Mayer Theatre. Frailey said while the Civic Center held many performances there, the theater was not adequate.
"The theater was meant to be a movie hall," Frailey said. "So a lot of larger performance groups refused to work there because the hall did not provide everything they needed, like a stage right."
Frailey said Jerry Frautschi's monetary gift, which funded the construction of the Overture Center for the Arts, allowed the Overture to renovate the hall to fit the needs of a variety of performance groups.
"The Capitol Theater now has, along with the historic architecture, a beautiful space with brand new seats, a wonderful curtain made by the same company that made the curtain for the original theater, better acoustics for musical performances and side boxes where people can sit," Frailey said.
The Overture will hold a Capitol Theater open house Saturday from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. and on Sunday from 10:30 a.m. until 3 p.m.