Wednesday, May 25, 2005

Maui's historic Iao Theatre is a corner- stone in the revitaliza- tion of Wailuku town.

Plan to renovate
Iao Theatre involves
nonprofit group

WAILUKU » Maui County officials are considering a long-term lease with a nonprofit group to manage and help renovate the historic Iao Theatre, a cornerstone in the revitalization of Wailuku town.

Maui Community Theatre, doing business as Maui OnStage, is asking for the lease to make fund-raising easier to restore the county-owned facility.

County economic development officials plan to hold a public meeting today to seek ideas about future uses of the theater. The meeting starts at 6:30 p.m. at the Cameron Center Auditorium.

Maui OnStage has been using the Iao Theatre since 1986, producing and managing stage productions, and its one-year lease for $500 a month expires on Sept. 30.

The building, with seating for 400 people, has enabled local writers and entertainers to present a variety of events, including film festivals, evangelical gatherings, musicals, and original dramatic productions.

"They're so creative. It's wonderful to have them there," said Maui artist Pat Masumoto, who has had her paintings purchased by the State Foundation on Culture and the Arts.

Masumoto, whose Gallery Ha is across from the theater, said watching rehearsals for stage productions has encouraged her to write plays.

The theater has also been a popular venue for the Maui Academy of Performing Arts, home of a touring company that performs at schools statewide.

Academy artistic director David Johnston said his group has been able to get longer run dates for performances at the Iao Theatre, than other places.

The building, designed in an art deco style, was constructed in 1927 as a movie house. It also served as a venue for USO shows and vaudeville acts.

It was saved from demolition in 1989 through a coalition led by the Wailuku Main Street Association.

While the county spent $1.4 million in the purchase and in renovations, the building still needs some work, including a new air-conditioning system, new seats to replace some 200 wooden chairs and restoration of the building's facade.

Maui OnStage Executive Director Darla Palmer said the amount of money needed to renovate the theater building has been estimated at $5 million.

Palmer said federal agencies and institutions would be more willing to contribute money to restore and renovate the building if there is a long-term plan.

County Economic Development coordinator Lynn Araki-Regan said the meeting is intended to take a serious look at the kind of uses wanted by the community.

The county welcomes other ideas from the community.

"We want ideas. That's the whole purpose of the meeting," she said.

New business spaces are being developed, with the Iao Theatre expected to serve as a commercial draw.

"It's beyond important. It's critical," said Alexa Basinger, the project director for the nonprofit Lokahi Pacific, which is completing construction of a $3-million mixed use facility next to the theater.

County of Maui
www.co.maui.hi.us Maui Community Theatre

E-mail to City Desk


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