PHILIPSBURG — The "grand old lady" of Montana Theater is ready for another phase of her long life, thanks to a big community effort.
The unofficial opening happened last Saturday when the bad weather forced the annual recital by the Philipsburg Dance Academy indoors. But after a year of lockdown, and with the remodeling finished, it was the perfect handoff to a new generation.
“This was wonderful and we were so honored that the little kids got to come and be on stage and the whole community turned out," said Theater Board President Cathy Smith. "It was wonderful. Yes, we're very thankful for this community.”
In typical Philipsburg fashion, museum supporters decided to innovate and use the downtime of the pandemic this winter to completely give the historic theater fresh paint, reupholstering the seats with original material and a general sprucing up.
"Because there's so many so many things to check off the list. So it was hard to have picked the priorities, but I think we chose well and made this space very presentable," recalled Board Secretary Sally Newsome Ladd. "It's already has some magic to it, and I think we were able to enhance that and invite people in a really warm way.”
Nothing's been lost. In fact, downstairs the dressing rooms are still chock full of history.
It's not just the theater building itself that's a treasure. A long mirror downstairs was actually used up in the ghost town of Granite decades ago. It was transported up the mountain and then back down and placed into the dressing room.
The P3 house band is getting tuned up for the first official gig on Saturday night, with Newsome Ladd saying there's a summer of events to follow.
“So next for us is to get some live music back in here. This Saturday will have a band and then we're really jazzed about having some live theater in here, so we'll have six weeks of live theater. There will be three different shows, four because we'll have a kids show as well, so we're going to get the families involved and have some really wonderful things going on."
It's all indicative of a structure that's meant so much to generations.
"This is wonderful because my grandson was five when he started coming to this theater and he comes to every live performance," reflected Smith. "He's now 18. This theater meant a lot to him. He doesn't want to be an actor, but he loves to watch it.
And as Sally said, she was happy with all those kids in here.
“It's been a real huge effort and we're massively grateful to all the people who've put in time and energy and money to help us out, to get to this point," said Newsome Ladd.
Now the word is just enjoy. “Yes, just enjoy it and we can't do it without having people come see us."
And a personal touch for me on this report. The story goes my vaudeville-era grandfather and his "Bragg Family Show" loved to play the Philipsburg Theater back in the day.
For more on upcoming events, check out the Philipsburg Theater Facebook page.