Kay Theatre eyes final push to become performing venue

AC, wiring, sound, seats still pending
Reporter Editor

Les Davenport (L), Dave Ogee work above classic checkered floor, new this year in Kay lobby. 
Reporter/Mike Brown Les Davenport (L), Dave Ogee work above classic checkered floor, new this year in Kay lobby. Reporter/Mike Brown Volunteer workers who have spent most of the last decade restoring the Kay Theatre can just about glimpse an opening night.

There would be excitement and electricity in the air not felt in the historic old venue since the Eisenhower Administration.

But first, they’ve got to get “over the hump” and finish a project that has some major hurdles to clear.

“We’re still here,” Les Davenport, Kay Theatre Foundation president said. “I know there are people wondering why we haven’t had events, outside of some during the Tejas Festival. We’re just not there yet, not licensed to hold big public events.”

“From this point on, all our efforts will go into the main theatre,” foundation treasurer Dave Ogee said. “We have 15 tons of air conditioning to install and many feet of duct work to hang.

“We need wiring to fully service an operating theatre of the arts, both light and sound. When this is finished we still have to insulate and procure all the seating, fixtures and furniture necessary to seat 200.”

GIFT—“ This is not cheap,” he said.

The theatre project hasn’t lacked for support. “Just recently we had a family, which asked to remain anonymous, contribute $10,000. It’s so important there are those among us willing to go that extra mile to help make this project a reality.”

Davenport and Ogee understand there are those wondering why the Kay isn’t able to post a schedule of upcoming events.

“It’s just incredibly complex to restore a building of this age,” he said. “We spent $8,000 on the back wall so we could have the Tejas Festival events this spring. Of course, that was going to have to be done anyway, eventually.”

Those included a performance of Thorndale ISD’s one-act play and concerts by the Rising Star Baptist Church’s choir and the Communities in Concert Band.

All were well attended and rousing successes. “If you’ve never heard a Sousa march played in an all-metal building you don’t know what you’re missing,” Ogee said.

FUTURE—Volunteers envision the Kay as a building with both a rich history and a bright future.

It has recently received designation for a Texas Historical Marker, it’s on the El Camino Real National Historic Trail and planners have called the Kay and the I&GN Depot-Museum as the two north-south “anchors” for downtown Rockdale.

“Imagine what we’ll be able to do when the building is finished with all the trimmings needed for full theatre productions,” Ogee said. “We’ll be able to host weddings, parties, all manner of local events.”

“And it’s all volunteer,” he added. “No project-specific taxpayer dollars have been, or will be, accessed.”

“Much of the work has been done by volunteers, including several businesses,” Davenport said.

FUND-RAISER—The major projects that remain can’t be done “a bit at a time” the way much of the work has been accomplished over the past nine years.

“When we get into the wiring and the AC in the main theatre we won’t be able to tell a contractor, ‘we’ll pay you a little now, then a little in several months’,” Davenport said. “They can’t work that way. They need to bring their equipment in, do the job and leave.”

How can the community support the Kay?

Its major annual fund raiser, the Run for the Kay, will be in late September. More details will be announced in upcoming weeks.

“ We will continue to seek grants and support locally,” Davenport said. “We have gotten a lot of support from the community.”

The bottom line?

“The Kay Theatre project is alive and well,”Ogee said. “We are making progress in spite of numerous challenges. We welcome anyone who wants to support this project in any way.”

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