Jayhawk Theatre’s Snow hopes to raise ‘phoenix’ from ashes

Saturday night's Jayhawk Theatre Revival at the Celtic Fox raised approximately $750 toward renovating the theater.

ReAnne Utemark

The Jayhawk Theatre got a breath of life on Saturday night with the Jayhawk Theatre Revival, hosted at the Celtic Fox. The event included tours of the theater, five bands and videos about the potential renovation.

Roughly 200 guests from the community attended, and the event raised approximately $750.

During the tours, guests learned the history of the Jayhawk Theatre, including that it was one of the first air conditioned theaters in the country, and that it was originally designed by the Boller Brothers to be safer for theater goers. The walls are over a foot of solid concrete. According to the Jayhawk Theatre Web site, the theater opened in 1926, and closed its doors in 1976.

Since then, it lay completely closed up for several decades. In 1996, an Eagle Scout troop cleared the debris from the theatre and, on its 70th anniversary, people were allowed to tour the facility for the first time in 25 years. Since then, a group of concerned citizens has set about raising money and gathering support to renovate the Jayhawk and make it a multi-purpose community theater.

“I think the Jayhawk Theatre represents our hopes and dreams for this community,” said Andrea Koker, an attendee at the show. Koker said injecting life into downtown with arts and culture were some of the best ways to breathe life back into downtown.

Brady Groothuis, a guitarist with From Quiet Arms, said he was new to the Jayhawk Theatre project, but he thought it was a great thing.

“Theater is another way of expressing yourself, like music,” said Groothuis.

The bands that played hailed from Topeka, Lawrence and Kansas City. Joining From Quiet Arms were Cherry Tree Parade, Echo Lake, Define Beautiful and Left on Northwood.

Debbie Snow, vice president of the Jayhawk Theatre board of directors, said she was excited to get younger members of the Topeka community interested in the Jayhawk and that the concert was an effective way to do that.

“This is where we get to have another generation get to know and love the Jayhawk,” said Snow.

Snow also said that the show reflected the mission of the Jayhawk Theatre, that they wanted to do a variety of events that reflected a broad range of the arts in Topeka. Snow called the theater a “mysterious gem,” and said that people who took a tour were “dazzled.” Snow thought it represented the memories and the future of Topeka.

“We’re going to raise that phoenix [the Jayhawk] out of the ashes,” said Snow.