August Member Spotlight: The Orpheum Theatre

Left: The Orpheum Theatre marquee during movie palace era. Right: Present day interior. Photos courtesy of The Orpheum Theatre.

New Alliance Member Organization The Orpheum Theatre is a place steeped in history. Built in 1916 as a vaudeville house, the theatre has long been a beacon of the Western Illinois arts community. Thriving during the movie palace era and then surviving through uncertain times, the regal theatre has been a mainstay for natives of Galesburg.

“The Orpheum is an inherent part of people’s childhoods in Galesburg,” reflects Interim Director ​Erin Glasnovich. “At least once a week someone wanders in and shares a memory of seeing a movie or a show here. It’s so important to be part of that connected community.”

That community saved The Orpheum from demolition in the 1980s and banded together to restore and reopen it in 1988. Today the theatre pays homage to its vaudeville roots by hosting plays, magicians, concerts, and touring shows. It also continues to foster close ties with the local arts community through its Tenants Series, an opportunity for local performing arts and nonprofit organizations to bring music, movies, dance, and theatre to The Orpheum stage.

“[The series] allows our Tenants to showcase a variety of work at the theatre, whether it be ballet or jazz or something else,” notes Glasnovich. “It’s nice to have The Orpheum available as a space for them to have fellowship with other artists.”

The next generation also gets a flavor of The Orpheum through the Youth Entertainment Series (YES), ensuring its impact is felt in the community for years to come. The program gives community youth the opportunity to attend performances for free.

“Seeing kids in awe of the theatre, especially in the age of technology, is really something astounding,” concludes Glasnovich. “We feel strongly about the importance of the program, particularly in exposing students to different cultures.”

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