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Wharton Plaza Theatre

By BY CAMILLE M. DOTY - CDOTY@VICAD.COM
Sept. 1, 2011 at 4:01 a.m.


WHARTON - The Plaza Theatre holds different meaning to each generation.

Some get nostalgic because they remember this town's staple as a picture show and later a hotel.

At one point all they had was memories because a fire destroyed the building in the 1980s.

Hope was restored when the Community Theatre of Wharton acquired the abandoned building.

With a little patience and time, the historical landmark re-opened.

"The building itself is a throwback to the art-deco days," said Russell Kacer, vice president of communications for the Plaza Theatre.

The neon-lit marquee could catch anyone's eye on the outside. But the warmth and sense of family can capture anyone's heart.

This quaint theater nestled in downtown Wharton gives locals the opportunity to take center stage and fully engage in the arts.

The Plaza Theatre has six productions each year - two musicals, three plays, and a children's summer production. There are also a host of concerts and variety shows.

This close-knit art community calls themselves the Footeliters, affectionately after famous playwright Horton Foote.

Foote, a Wharton native, received Academy Awards for his adaptation of "To Kill a Mockingbird" and original screenplay, "Tender Mercies."

"The children look forward to the production every summer," said Kacer. He also said the theater exposes the children to arts and culture. And an added bonus is spending time with friends.

The children involved, won't answer to little thespians - they are proudly called the Litefooters.

The fine arts have taken a hit by the economy, and this local theater is no exception. But the group's drive and persistence has sustained them.

The Lower Colorado River Authority awarded then a $25,000 grant to weatherize the theater. Additionally, the Houston Galveston Arts Council gave them funds to rehab the marquee and street front.

Kacer said the plaza changes the perception of theater because of its casual atmosphere.

"Here, it's laid back and comfortable. You can experience arts and culture without being intimidated by it," he said.

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