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The Carlisle Theatre and Performing Arts Center Anchors a Revitalized Downtown

By S. Mathur

"We got married at the Carlisle theatre 5 years ago and this year were able to use the theatre again to announce our first baby! It is a historic and beautiful place!! We absolutely love it!"This comment from a Facebook fan highlights the dual role the Carlisle Theatre and Performing Arts Center has played in downtown Carlisle since its inception in 1939. As a historic landmark and a popular culture center, it is cherished by the community.

While its rich Art Deco interiors evoke the golden age of film, the historic architecture is combined with contemporary technology for a modern theater experience. Theatre Manager Leslie Sterner says, "People love it for the ambiance that we have. It's like a step back in time with the modern digital and sound updates. Outside we still have the old fashioned marquee and shadow boxes. It is a great place for the movies but also for our live performances and the concerts that we present." Sterner notes that the theatre may look small, but can hold over 950 people!

In 1986, the Carlisle was forced to close due to competition from multiplexes. It was renovated and reopened in 1993 with whole-hearted support from the community. Sterner recalls: "The Theatre was renovated to its original state by a group of Carlisle residents who could not bear to see this beautiful old building right in the middle of downtown Carlisle be demolished or turned into a warehouse or something other than the facility that it was built to be. They worked hard to raise money to pay for all that needed to be done. Many of them personally worked 'hands on' to accomplish this along with many donated materials. The main idea was to provide a cultural center for the community?performing arts and educational."

The Carlisle reopened as a non-profit performing arts center and has become a popular venue for cultural events, films, and community and family events. Its popularity has anchored the revitalization of the downtown area. The theatre is also home to two artistic companies: the Carlisle Theatre Company and Cantate Carlisle - the resident choir now celebrating its 25th anniversary. The calendar of events includes films, musicals, concerts, and tributes to the classics like the Rolling Stones and the Beach Boys. The Carlisle Kids Theatre Company has a series of workshops and performances for children and young adults, providing training and entrainment for school-age kids.

The theatre is a popular venue for business, community and family events like meetings, receptions, fundraisers, weddings and parties. Nearby Dickinson College is a regular sponsor of films and cultural events. An October midnight screening of The Rocky Horror Picture Show is an eagerly-awaited annual event. Sterner is also a fan of the classics: "My favorite show in the past couple of years was presented by our own Carlisle Theatre Company. Last October they did an amazing production of Jesus Christ Superstar. It had people talking about it for months."

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