bpic_b_raue1Raue Center For The Arts announces the 85th birthday of the El Tovar Theater in historic downtown Crystal Lake.  El Tovar theatre opened to the public on July 25, 1929 with showings of Alice White Broadway Babies and Edward Van and his celebrated orchestra performing A Night in Spain.

The celebration will coincide with Raue Center’s announcement of its 2014/ 2015 Season that includes, Garrison Keillor, the return of Corky Siegel, Chicago premieres of Hands on a Hardbody and Water 9 to be performed by Raue Center’s own Williams Street Repertory), and much more. Single tickets for the new season will go on sale July 25 at noon.  For a sneak peek check out Raue Center’s website, www.rauecenter.org.

“We are so excited that the launch of this powerful 2014 / 2015 season will be coinciding with the space’s 85th anniversary, simply because as Raue Center has made strides towards innovative and ever greater ways of bringing fantastic theatre and art into the community, it is a blessing that Raue’s patrons and family are able to recognize the importance that this space has always held in the Crystal Lake community,” says Melissa Thomfohrda, Raue Center’s Director of Marketing.

Raue Center feels its greatest achievement is the continuation and renewal of the legacy the El Tovar Theater brought to Crystal Lake and its citizens 85 years ago, to supply and empower the community of Crystal Lake with new and moving arts made available to people of all ages and all walks of life.

A small celebration of the milestone birthday will occur on July 25 at 4pm. The event will include the children of the founder, Edward Kirchberg; architect, Elmer Behrns; and the first manager Margaret Gracy.

History of Raue Center For The Arts

Opened in 1929 as El Tovar, this theatre was a welcome addition to northern Illinois as it showcased the thrilling new “talkies” movies as well as vaudeville troupers including Gene Autry and George Goebel who wheeled into town on the weekends. During the 1960s, area theatre groups performed between film showings. Home to the movies for most of its life, El Tovar eventually became The Lake, and then the downtown Showplace. It was finishing its days as a shabby art house with a sprinkling of viewers. The stage had become unsafe, the basement dressing rooms were crumbling, the theatre’s walls were flaking, and the ceiling was leaking, but fond memories of those who had loved the theatre still imbued the air. The genteel old girl was about to experience a renaissance.

Lucille Raue, who had lived and worked most of her life in a foursquare-block area in downtown Crystal Lake, had left a generous gift for the improvement of her beloved hometown. Along with the executor, an advisory group of local citizens directed a gift from the Raue Family Estate to the Crystal Lake Civic Center Authority. It included an outright gift to buy the building, $1 million for renovation, and $500,000 in matching incentives. Now named for its shy benefactor, Raue Center’s new board of directors and staff would guide it through construction, staffing and planning to renovate it into a first-class venue for the visual and performing arts. With Charles River Development Corporation of Crystal Lake as the general contractor, ground was broken in November 1999, and the old stage house was demolished. In August of 2001, the grand dame emerged as state-of-the art Raue Center For The Arts.

Amongst the early advisors was Bill Dwyer, who became the theatre’s first Board President.

National mainstage acts were brought to the Raue Center, including Bill Cosby, Penn & Teller, Wynton Marsalis, Bob Newhart, Lily Tomlin and many other Tony, Academy, Emmy and Grammy award winning artists. Raue Center also continued the tradition of rentals to local choir, music and dance groups – truly making the space the community’s own theatre.

As Raue Center has grown, it has faced changing circumstances and challenges, forcing it to rebuild and renovate its’ programming. Due to the recession, lower-cost programs like Lucy’s Comedy Café and Williams Street Repertory (WSR) – Raue Center’s in-residence theatre company – have been launched. Lucy’s Comedy Café has become a sellout series, and among WSR’s countless productions was Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street that opened the 2013-14 season and won four Broadway World Chicago awards.

In 2011, the need for an environment to further the patron’s and artist’s experience and to develop audience relations with the artists and fellow art-supporters was identified. A private family foundation donated the funds to build a full service bar while other donors rallied to help with the amenities. This new space, named 26 North, has become home to events like our tasting series, the on-going Raue Salon, opening night parties with the cast of WSR, as well as being open prior to, and after, each performance for the enjoyment of our patrons.

This one-of-a-kind theatre has been serving the community as the premiere entertainment venue since 1929.  The dreams of its founders and those who worked painstakingly to restore it to its original grandeur still ring true, and the commitment of all to keep the memories alive while bringing in state-of-the-art technology has been a proven success. We hope you continue to support the Raue, and encourage you to check out our permanent history display – it’s our way of trying to keep the memories alive for generations to come.

About Raue Center For The Arts

Raue Center is a 501(c)3 non-profit organization dedicated to enriching the lives of all through the arts. For 13 years, they have provided quality programming – striving to make it pertinent, available and affordable to all. As a painstakingly restored, 1920s regional showcase theatre named for its benefactor—Lucile Raue—Raue Center has attracted the finest stars, Broadway shows, musicians and artists. Named on the League of Historic American Theatres, Raue Center is one of the finest examples of restored art and decor in the nation. The 750-seat theatre, located in historic, downtown Crystal Lake, is a gathering place for our region’s citizens and has become a true destination. For additional information, visit www.rauecenter.orgwww.facebook.com/RaueCenter and www.twitter.com/RaueCenter.