Since the early 1900s, the corner of Franklin and First Streets in Clarksville has been the bedrock of local entertainment. The art deco building that sits at the corner today first opened in 1947, with live theatre making its debut in the building in 1983.
The Roxy Regional Theatre will open its 36th season, “Theatre You Can’t Resist” on September 7, 2018, with “Hairspray.” Set in Baltimore in 1962, the Tony Award-winning musical explores the changing era as the idyllic 1950s are out and the challenge and turbulence of the 1960s take over.
Roxy Executive Director Ryan Bowie is thrilled to open the season with three mainstage shows never before performed at the Roxy. “We named our season, and selected these shows, in part because of the political climate,” he explains. “We want to emphasize that theatre can challenge us and make a statement. These shows deal with issues that weren’t only prevalent when they were written, but they’re still part of everyday life today.”
The “official” kick-off for the Roxy’s new season is Saturday, September 15, a day that starts in the pre-dawn hours as Bowie and dozens of volunteers set up the 100-block of Franklin Street for “Frolic on Franklin: A Celebration of the Arts.” Now in its 13th year, Frolic showcases the work of local and regional artists in a street-fair environment, where you can purchase original paintings, pottery, jewelry, photography, and much more for prices ranging from $2-$2,000. Enjoy live music, concessions, and demonstrations throughout the day.
In the small slot of about two hours, the street transforms into the setting for a glamorous Gala. A ticketed, show-inspired dinner under a huge tent, silent and live auctions, plus a few scenes from the opening production make the evening a preeminent event among Clarksville’s social scene. Highlights of the Gala 36 dinner include “You Can’t Stop” the Filet of Beef, Roasted “Gar-Link” Mashed Potatoes, “Amber’s Green with Envy” Salad, “Motormouth” Meatballs, and “Mr. Pinky’s” Waffle Bowl and Ice Cream Sundae Bar.
A special highlight for this season is the relighting of the marquee. After being dark for nearly 40 years and severely damaged since 2016, a new historically accurate marquee was installed by Memphis-based Balton Signs earlier in the summer and lit in a public celebration on August 30, 2018. Balton also installed the original marquee in 1947.
Showing next on the Roxy’s mainstage is “Lysistrata,” a comedic battle of the sexes, followed by “Miracle on 34th Street.”
“These first shows will be a springboard that sets the tone for the rest of the season,” says Bowie. “They’re setting the standard high for us for the rest of the year.”
The Theatre’s History
Since the early 1900s, the corner of Franklin and First has been the cornerstone of local entertainment. Originally called The Lillian, the theatre was built in 1913 as the first movie theatre in Clarksville. It burned shortly thereafter and was rebuilt in 1915, serving thousands of patrons who enjoyed silent pictures. The theatre went “dark” during the Great Depression, but with the advent of Fort Campbell, the Lillian was renamed the Roxy. Following a second fire in 1945, the Roxy was completely rebuilt and reopened in 1947 at its present location. Its sleek art deco style, featuring new lighting called neon, attracted movie-goers from miles around with first-run movies until 1980.
Opening again in 1983, the Roxy Regional Theatre was reborn into a live performing arts theatre. The intimate auditorium seats 130, so spectators often feel like they are part of the performance. (And often they are as actors venture out into the audience!)
In 1995, a professional company was created to supply the great demand for the classics, school curriculum-based productions, and holiday shows, and to enlarge the Roxy’s outreach services to the community. The Roxy Regional School of the Arts provides budding actors with extensive training in modern theatre working alongside professionals.
Whether you prefer Broadway musicals, Shakespearean dramas, jazz, classical music, children’s tales, cult classics or any of a variety of other options, the Roxy’s mainstage, and black box productions will offer something for you! A visit to Clarksville simply isn’t complete with attending a Roxy performance.
For details about Roxy performances and events, visit visitclarksvilletn.com or roxyregionaltheatre.org.