Improved Saenger Theatre To Be Unveiled Soon

This weekend the curtain will go up on an improved Saenger Theatre. The second phase of renovations to the 72-year-old building is almost complete. Crews have been making improvements in areas like the lobby, rest rooms and lighting. On Tuesday they were busy putting the finishing touches on renovations designed to bring the theatre built in 1920s into the 21st century.

"There's a lot of support of that building and a lot of good memories for people," said August Taconi, president of the Friends of Saenger. "We want it to stay here in town and one of the ways is to get the building up to code."

City officials say in the last six years more than $1.2 million dollars in improvements have gone into the Saenger. They say earlier projects like repairing the mechanical and electrical systems weren't visible to the public but the latest improvements are ones patrons will definitely notice.

"I think it's safe to say when people come in and see what the men's and ladies rest rooms in the theatre look like now as compared to what they looked like in the past, they're going to be completely bowled over," said Biloxi historical administrator Lolly Barnes.

There are more than double the number of bathrooms as before and the architect says bringing the building it up to code without hurting it's historical feel was a challenge.  Officials say they've started getting funding to redo the auditorium, but they're plans don't stop there.

Barnes said "We'll be looking at different needs for the user groups as far as the green room, dressing room space, [and] places to build sets. We have great plans for the future."

The public can see the improvements themselves this weekend as the Saenger celebrates 25 years since it's reopening in 1976. The theatre is hosting a gala Saturday night with a a reception at 6:30 followed by several performances. Tickets are $12.50. All proceeds will go the restoration of the theatre.

by Danielle Thomas