If there are two words to sum up the year the Historic DeSoto Theatre Foundation has had, they are preservation and momentum.
The foundation has worked hard to bring quality and fun programming and events to the community while pursuing its goal of preserving and restoring the DeSoto Theatre.
And it looks like they’ve got some momentum heading into 2020.
Michelle Picon, Director of Development for the foundation, said the big focus this year was on the theater’s 90th anniversary. With a slew of events planned around the celebration, the foundation’s board takes its mission to restore and preserve the historic theater very seriously.
“We feel like we have momentum right now and we want to keep that going toward the 100th anniversary,” she said. “We are preserving this building for future generations. It’s has been a very important part of the community for a long time. It’s constantly in use and we want to make sure it’s around for much longer.”
Picon said the foundation’s board believes there is potential for the DeSoto to take an even bigger role in the community and to become a leader in the arts.
In May, the foundation partnered with the Historic Preservation Commission and the Downtown Development Authority to host a preservation symposium. Speakers from across the state presented on a variety of topics involving preservation and conservation. The event cemented the foundation’s drive to keep raising funds to restore the DeSoto for generations to come.
But there is another aspect the foundation is focusing on and that’s simply making the DeSoto a space the community can enjoy. This year saw the historic theater play host to a variety of concerts, parties and of course theatrical productions.
December saw the popular “Holiday Hangout” event as well as the kids “Polar Express” event. Picon said Rome Little Theatre might be what many Rome residents know the DeSoto for, but there’s more going on at the beautiful old theater.
“What happens there most is Rome Little Theatre,” Picon said. “RLT is a constant. They are our resident theater company. A lot of people think of the DeSoto as Rome Little Theatre but we also offer a lot of other fun and engaging events.”
The annual runway show, the fourth of its kind, took to the stage in February while tours of the theater, movie screenings, concerts and anniversary celebrations came later on in the year. Picon said one of those concerts, “Myrna Clayton: Iconic Ladies of Jazz and Soul” took place thanks to a grant.
“We want to bring in more groups that are also in other theaters in Georgia,” she said. “If we can do that, if we can partner with other organizations across the state, we can get these great performers at better prices. We plan to focus on more partnerships.”
Incidentally, one of the next projects at the theater that will require funding, is improvements to the stage and the backstage area. Picon said those improvements aren’t just aesthetic. An improved stage will allow for bigger names and performers to be invited, and improvements to the backstage area will help loading in and out of productions and performances and help protect other areas of the theater from unnecessary but damaging traffic.
So the community can look forward cooler, more engaging events at the DeSoto Theatre in the coming year. There will be concerts, film screenings with desserts and champagne and a variety of other activities. There’s also the opportunity for community members to rent the space for special events and parties.
But behind it all, there’s a group of people — the foundation’s board — working to preserve the DeSoto and improve the structure so that it will remain an iconic part of Broad Street and the community as a whole.