The beauty and grace of our past is manifest in our old downtown theaters. Several of the Blue Ridge Highlands’ small towns are anchored by historic theaters, beautifully restored to their original splendor, and contributing culture, live music, and theatrical shows to invigorate the districts.
117 East Main Street, Marion
(276) 783-6092; www.thelincoln.org.
The lovely 1929 Lincoln Theatre in downtown Marion has the distinction of being one of only three Art Deco Mayan Revival theaters in the nation. The Lincoln is on the National Register of Historic Places and is a Virginia Historic Landmark. But Public Broadcasting System TV watchers may know it as the venue for Song of the Mountains, a long-running PBS broadcast featuring old time and bluegrass music. Beautifully restored in 2004 by a $1.8 million renovation and installation of state-of-the-art sound and lighting systems, the 500-seat theater features performing arts events year-round and has recently hosted Branson on the Road country music as a children’s chorus, and a Handel’s Messiah singalong event for the community.
14 West Main Street, Pulaski
(540) 994-9555; email@example.com
Pulaski Theatre began life in 1911 as Elks Theatre, s venue for vaudeville shows and silent films. Then after a 15-year stint as a dry goods store, it reincarnated as a cinema house for 25 years. When its owners gave the deteriorating building to Pulaski County in 1992, officials considered demolishing it. The Friend of the Theatre group saved it from the wrecking ball, renovated it, and re-opened the Pulaski to the public in 2008. Current programming includes concerts, live stage performances, children’s events, and productions by a new community theater group. The theater also hosts music lessons in fiddle, banjo, guitar, mandolin, and bass every Monday night.
113 E. Grayson St., Galax
(276) 238-8130; www.rextheatergalax.com
Galax may be a small town, but don’t expect the carpets to roll up Friday nights, not when the town-owned, historic Rex Theater hosts its weekly live radio show featuring bluegrass and old-time bands. Blue Ridge Backroads Live, run by volunteers, has been broadcast live to five states from the Rex on WBRF 98.1 FM since 1999. In addition to Friday nights, other concerts, comedy shows, and gospel productions are scheduled throughout the year. The renowned Whitetop Mountain Band often performs at this Crooked Road music venue on the last Saturday of the month. Built in the 1930s, the Rex has been a central attraction in Galax for almost 80 years.
318 Patrick Ave., Stuart
Although Patrick County’s Star Theatre has been used as a laundromat, an electronics repair shop, a furniture store, and an apartment building since its 1947 opening, it is sitting pretty now. The 260-seat theater building has been restored to its Art Deco style beauty, revealing its old stamped tin ceilings, ceramic tile floors, and burnished oak balcony. But modern touches add quality — a digital projection system has been installed and the theater floor leveled to accommodate moveable tables and chairs for dinner theater productions. The Star’s marquee shines again, open for live show, films, and concerts by well-known artists such as Scotland’s premiere Celtic band, the Tannahill Weavers.