The Commercial-News, Danville, IL

Local News

September 15, 2013

Fischer poised for comeback

Volunteers busy behind the scenes

DANVILLE — The grande dame sits quietly downtown, showing her age. A passerby might think she’s just another empty shell, waiting for the bulldozer.

Those who know the Fischer Theatre are quick to point out there’s a lot of life left in the lady, and she’s waiting patiently for her close-up.

“In reality, there’s a lot going on behind the scenes,” said Cher Pollock, president of the Vermilion Heritage Foundation board.

The 129-year-old building is still structurally sound and the acoustics in the auditorium are phenomenal, Pollock said. A whisper on the stage can be heard in the projection room a distance away.

“If a tornado goes down this street, I maintain the Fischer will be standing,” she added. “The structure is sound. It just needs some love.”

The Grand Opera House opened on Nov. 5, 1884, at Vermilion and Harrison streets. The name was changed in 1912 when Louis F. Fischer bought the theater; he enlarged and modernized it. The theater closed in 1982.

As part of behind-the-scenes activity, numerous consultants have come through and studies have been done.

The next step, perhaps six months away, is a campaign to raise funds to restore the historic theater to its past glory. Pollock said recent estimates put the price tag at $5 million, and the work could be completed within five years.

“We’re not just sitting here,” Pollock said. “We have an active, dedicated board who loves this building. Everyone on the board has faith we’re moving in a positive direction and will see work begin on the building.”

Board members meet once a month and always have a full agenda, she said.

Linda Federman, a volunteer in the gift shop, agreed that, to the average person, it looks like nothing is being done. “What has to be done is being done and the goal remains the same,” she said.

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