11.11.11 event to help reclaim Cincinnati’s acoustically renowned Emery Theatre

It started as a youthfully idealistic dream: reopening a local theatre that had fallen into disrepair. While viewing a nearby apartment, two young women spotted the Emery Theatre space and asked their rental agent about it. When told it would never reopen, they rose to the challenge and determined to bring the famed music venue back to life.

Mary Emery bequeathed the Samuel Hannaford-designed Emery Building to the city in 1911. For more than 20 years, its theatre housed the Cincinnati Symphony Orchestra. Theatrical shows of all kinds took place there through the first half of the 20th century, and later it was used for film nights. For more than a decade, however, the theatre has been largely empty. Now two young leaders hope to engage the Over-the-Rhine neighborhood and provide entertainment and educational opportunities at the Emery once again.

Inside Cincinnati’s famed Emery Theatre – photograph by 5chw4r7z.

The contemporary part of the story dates back to the fall of 2008 when Cincinnati-born Tina Manchise and Tara Lindsey Gordon, friends and collaborators in New York City, came to Cincinnati in the wake of the sudden death of Manchise’s mother. Gordon, a Boston native, loved Cincinnati and considered moving here after Manchise decided to stay back with family instead of returning to New York.

They decided to form a nonprofit called The Requiem Project to stabilize and restore the theatre. Early supporters included photographer Michael Wilson and downtown advertising firm Strata-G, which helped Gordon and Manchise secure grant funds. With the close partnership of the Emery Center Corporation, this acoustically-pure arts venue is now planned to be reopen by summer 2012.

“This project is about community investment,” Gordon said. They envision a broad range of uses for the many rooms included in the theatre area of the Emery Center building. “We aim to use every square inch of the space,” Manchise mentioned as she discussed the vision of a broad range of uses for the space that could include dance, music, drama, visual arts and more.

There have been 36 organizations to-date that have stepped up to support The Requiem Project. This Friday, a preview event dubbed 11.11.11 is planned to raise funds and allow Cincinnatians to explore the Emery’s artistic potential up close. Organizers also say that The Requiem Project will unveil its capital plan and renovation details at the event.

Tickets start at $75 and can be purchased online or by calling (513) 300-5669. The event will include performances by Madcap Puppet Theatre, Exhale Dance Tribe, and Over-the-Rhine.