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Reflecting on a Year of Progress - by The Times Leader

Renovation of historic Barnesville theater continues

BARNESVILLE — The Barnesville State Theater Company has spent just over a year cleaning and restoring the historic Barnesville State Theater.

Group President Roger Johnson said a lot of work has been completed so far, including cleaning the debris out of the building and putting on a new roof. Johnson also said much more work still needs to be completed, but he hopes the project has a positive impact on the community.

“The main goal is to provide a venue to enhance the community and the surrounding area, to provide whatever resource of entertainment they desire, in respect to what we’re going to have here at the theater. We plan to have live shows, movies, receptions of any sort, gatherings, graduations, high school events and things like that, so it’s not any one thing that’s going to draw people in. There’s going to be a myriad of things that we can offer,” he said.

Johnson said that on June 30, the organization purchased 450 theater seats, a movie screen and some large speakers. More construction must take place before these items are installed.

Johnson said the next step is to have a structural inspection done on the building. He said that some of the steel beams supporting the building have rust on them that needs to be removed. After that, the volunteers will remove some plaster and soundproofing tile from the walls, and then the building will get new plumbing.

Johnson explained that the funding for this project mostly comes from grants and donors.

“Going into it, we had to keep an open mind. We knew it was going to take a sizable amount of money, and we are working with people that write grants to apply for grants in the state of Ohio, all various titles,” he said.

The Barnesville State Theater Company is made up entirely of volunteers. Johnson said that all of them either live in or used to live in Barnesville.

Johnson said he hopes the theater will be ready to host small events next year.

“It’s very aggressive to think we could possibly be in here by spring next year with just small bands, and we just mean setting up a small band down where the orchestra pit is. We’re not even going to put anything back where the stage is yet,” he said.

Johnson added that the theater will need state authorization and must pass an inspection before it can host any events.

Johnson said he is planning for the theater to have a 500-600 seating capacity.

Johnson plans to tear down a wall between the theater and the former Parker and Parker Insurance agency next door. He said the concession stands will go into the former insurance agency building.

“You can’t have a theater without popcorn,” he said.

Johnson also said that the Barnesville State Theater Company owns the alley next to the theater. He hopes to create an outdoor seating area there for wine-tasting events.

“In Barnesville itself, this area of downtown, I think there are over 180 buildings in the historic district. We want to enhance that to continue the tradition of keeping Barnesville Barnesville,” Johnson said.

The historic theater opened in 1925 and featured a large stage and balcony. The theater hosted live shows and movies until it closed in 1969. The building then became a carpet store and later a thrift store, but it has been unoccupied for many years. It is located at 137 W. Main St. in Barnesville.

The Barnesville State Theater Company is hosting a free summer concert series at the Barnesville Memorial Park Amphitheater.

The first concert took place on June 25 with the Shuman Band performing. Johnson said that they had a good turnout with about 120 people attending the event.

Although the event was free, Johnson said members of the events committee sold concessions, so the organization was able to gain some funds.

All concerts are held from 5-7 p.m.

Malcolm Spence and his Eclectic Campfire Show will be performing at the park on Sunday. The Barnesville Community Alumni Band and the Barnesville Shamrock High School Band will perform on Aug. 6. Baranich, Gable and Lee will perform on Aug. 20, and the Shuman Band will take the stage again on Sept. 17.

Johnson said the Barnesville State Theater Company has monthly meetings, and he encourages the public to attend. The meetings are usually at 5 p.m. on the first Tuesday of the month. Johnson said the location for the meetings varies, so those who wish to attend should visit or the Barnesville State Theater Company Facebook page for more details. The minutes of the meetings can also be found on the organization’s website.

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