BILOXI, MS (WLOX) - The Saenger Theater is back on the radar with discussions by city council about renovations to the Biloxi cultural icon.
The long-term effort to improve the historic theater is getting some good news. On the council's Tuesday agenda is a resolution to approve and discuss a $100,000 grant from the Mississippi Community Heritage Fund for exterior repairs, and commit to a $25,000 grant.
It's a small step, but one well received.
Tina Johnston has been acting at the Saenger Theater for more than 30 years. The latest: this weekend's Shrek the Musical.
"It's just a special experience to come here every time I do, and to introduce young people that have never been on that state before and let them experience that same feeling I had that first time," said Johnston, who applauds any effort to help repair the building. "I feel like it's a landmark here that Katrina didn't take away from us; that we need to cuddle and hug and put money into it and keep it because of all the talent that's here on this Coast."
The grant money is for roof repair and side wall sealing to prevent rain from penetrating the walls. City officials say construction should start around Oct. 15, and is scheduled to be finished in 2018.
"People make memories, people walk in and it's a memorable thing," actress Jade Kremer said. "Like, first impressions with people it's the same with buildings. And when you walk in and see that there's paint falling off the wall, it's sad because it's such a beautiful place."
City officials say they expect interior work on damage like peeling paint and crumbling facades to begin in 2017 with an additional grant.
Those who come to see shows at the Saenger want to keep the theater strong for future theatergoers.
"Not much has really changed," said Austin Townsend of Ocean Springs. "It's been the same since I was a kid, and I just appreciate keeping it as much as possible the same."
John Schmidt of Biloxi has been worried about the state of disrepair for a long time.
"That's the reason I came to these shows to support so we can get this place looking the way it should," Schmidt said. "It's a jewel."