You never know what’s going on behind closed doors. Behind closed doors is where intrigues, plots and plans are hatched. Behind closed doors are where secret societies are formed and hale fellows are well met.
It’s also, should you open the right door, where the past is being preserved and the future built.
Behind a high fence and yes, a closed door, a significant piece of Augusta’s theatrical past is being restored, remastered and after more than 30 shuttered years, preparing to welcome audiences once again.
A few weeks ago, I was part of an informal hardhat tour through the rehabilitation of the Miller Theater. Make no mistake, the work being done is significant, challenging and being carefully planned and executed. The venue, planned to be performance-ready later this year, is not just getting a new coat of paint and polish. The Miller is a venue that while beloved, had significant issues, issues that have taken no small measure of imagination and creativity to solve.
For instance, the Miller was built, in 1940, as a movie theater. Though a forward-thinking architect did equip the building with a stage, it was really too small to be very functional. The current project has developed a variety of strategies to make the stage deeper, wider and better equipped for the needs of contemporary acts.
The Miller also had something of a problem with its facilities. There really weren’t any. Well, that’s not strictly true. They did exist – on the second floor of the theater. That, as it turns out, is something of an issue for patrons who can’t navigate stairs. The answer – downstairs bathrooms built in space made available by purchasing the building next door and an elevator that goes from basement to balcony and all stops in-between.
Ostensibly, the Miller rehab is being executed with Symphony Orchestra Augusta, its principal tenant and the organization that spearheaded current efforts, in mind. But the truth is the orchestra is only a small part of the equation, and the most exciting performances may well be those yet to be determined.
You see, while the main auditorium is perfect for music, comedy, some dance and perhaps theater, the size and scope of the Miller mean that tradition need not be adhered to. Its long arcade might become a performance space. As yet unassigned real estate in the building next door could host intimate performances. It takes a little creativity, but watching walls, once crumbling and lost rise again makes me believe creativity may not be in short supply.
A few years ago, an inspirational message mysteriously appeared on the Miller marquee. It read, quite simply, It’s Time.
It finally looks like that’s true.