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It Was Once in Utter Disrepair but Carnegie Theater Celebrates 10 Strong Years

Less than 20 years ago, there were trees growing through the floor of The Carnegie’s long-unused theater. Vines twisted through the balconies. Natural light was provided by the sun shining through what remained of the roof.

This week, The Carnegie’s Otto M. Budig Theatre celebrated the 10th anniversary of its March 26, 2006 dedication.

The renovation took 18,000 hours of skilled labor, the removal of five tons of deteriorated plaster (and plenty of mold), 175 gallons of paint added and $2,500,000 raised from the community with donors large and small.

Carnegie theater veteran Greg Procaccino, who most recently directed Sleuth earlier this season, recalls it back in the day. “I remember how the place looked before the renovation. Cement fell from the ceiling. Now it’s sharp and beautiful and welcoming.”

Welcoming is the word. The Carnegie’s theater has welcomed thousands of actors, audiences and school children over the last decade:

More than 1,000 actors and musician and more than 1,000 children have been on the stage and more than 300,000 people have been in the audience for 27 theater productions, 40 Carnegie in Concerts programs and more than 1,000 community events.

Director/choreographer, educator, actress and community theater activist Dee Anne Bryll has co-created three shows at The Carnegie with husband Ed Cohen, all showcasing gifted young performers. She calls their work at The Carnegie “some of the greatest theatre experiences Ed and I have had.”

Among them: working with Max Chernin (now in new Broadway musical Bright Star) in Big River, CCM Drama grad Michael Carr (now an adjunct professor at CCM) and bringing dozens of the region’s most talented young musical theater performers to Carnegie audiences.

Carissa Schutzman of Villa Hills is mom of theater kid Mark, 13, who has participated in after-school theatre workshops, children’s productions and earlier this year was the Mayor of Munchkin City in the mainstage production of The Wizard of Oz.  

“The staff at the Carnegie have been so kind and supportive, and Mark has learned so much from them. While the preparation for The Wizard of Oz was demanding, he had a wonderfully positive experience.”  

Nancy James, one of the best-known names in area entertainment, has been singing in the Carnegie in Concert series for seven years. Coming June 9 will be Trilogy with Dixie Karas and Ann Chamberlain. “The Carnegie Theatre is a gem -- I am so proud to have been a part of the continued success of this beautiful space,” said James.

Procaccino notes, “The Carnegie is a partner to Covington -- and the theater ghost loves the space.”

Written by Jackie Demaline, RCN Arts

Slideshow Images & Captions: 
The Carnegie theater as it is today