Astra Theatre's grand re-opening set for April 14February 13, 2018
By ALLEN LAMAN
JASPER — The revamped Astra Theatre in Jasper has an official reopening day, and those who have worked for more than three years to transform it are billing the night as a celebration.
Nashville recording artists Will Kimbrough and Patrick Sweany are set to breathe life back into the historic and newly renovated Jasper venue on Saturday, April 14. Doors will open at 6:30 p.m. and their performance will begin at 7:30 p.m.
According to a press release, Kimbrough — a former Americana Music Association “Instrumentalist of the Year” — will perform with a full band, while, Sweany, who first gained prominence as an acclaimed-acoustic blues guitarist, will perform an opening solo acoustic set.
“We are looking at this as a celebration of 3 1/2 years of work and all that the community has given us,” said Marc Steczyk, president of Next Act, the nonprofit organization that purchased and renovated the theater.
Items still on the construction checklist include interior drywall work, interior painting, seating framework, electrical and plumbing work, as well as the installation of the venue’s new seats.
The two-phase renovation project began last summer. Most of phase 1 — which included gutting the theater, reopening the balcony, bringing in a new HVAC system and much of the building’s exterior work — is covered by an Indiana Office of Community and Rural Affairs grant that Next Act secured in August 2016. Phase 2 began last month and includes interior work paid for by Next Act fundraising.
The projected cost of the entire project was nearly $1.7 million, which included the cost of the building, the cost of renovations and funds for an endowment Next Act set up when it first formed in October 2014.
“There’s a lot of work yet to be done, but the end is definitely in sight, which is very exciting for us,” Steczyk said. The April 14 concert date has long been the projected end-date goal for completing the project because it is a Saturday evening that most closely aligns with the Astra’s original grand opening date of April 17, 1936.
Steczyk said the performers will provide excellent entertainment as well as honest feedback on how the venue holds up during its first event following the renovations.
In addition to being an Americana Music Award winner, Kimbrough has had his songs recorded by artists including Jimmy Buffett, Little Feat, Jack Ingram, Todd Snider and more. He has collaborated with or done session guitar work for the likes of Rosanne Cash, Guy Clark, Rodney Crowell, Steve Earle, Emmylou Harris, The Jayhawks, Buddy Miller, John Prine, Billy Joe Shaver and more.
Kimbrough has also served as the touring guitarist for both Rodney Crowell and Emmylou Harris — most recently on a string of 2017 summer dates opening for Indiana rocker John Mellencamp.
Sweany has six critically-acclaimed studio albums to his credit, two of which were produced by his former bandmate, Dan Auerbach of rock band The Black Keys. He has played at festivals across the country, including the Newport Folk Festival, Merlefest, Montreal Jazz Fest and Telluride Blues & Brews Fest. He has also supported international acts such as The Black Keys, The Tedeschi Trucks Band, The Wood Brothers, Hot Tuna and others on tour.
Tickets to the show can be purchased at www.TheNextAct.org. Main floor and general admission tickets are $16.95, balcony tickets are $24.95, and VIP packages — which include preferred seating and parking, early venue access for a first-look guided tour of the Astra, a meet and greet with the artists, finger foods, and a free drink voucher — are $29.95. Buyers can also use the code ASTRA2018 at checkout to unlock a $2 per ticket savings across all ticketing levels.
Steczyk said Next Act is working to book a season of events through the end of 2018. He added that the group has the front end of the schedule “pretty much done,” while the second half is still being tinkered with.
“We’ve got movies coming up, we’ve got more music coming up, we’ve got comedy coming up, so we’ve got just a diverse lineup of things that are coming yet for the remainder of 2018,” Steczyk said.
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