ABOUT US

Although we’ve been around for 51 years, our vision of producing quality art remains renewed and steadfast. In addition to four Gallery-produced shows each season, we also offer a five week youth summer workshop in which the participants receive training in acting, music, dance choreography, stage management, and other components of producing a show. We also look for touring groups that have an exceptional reputation and can provide a quality educational experience for our youth. Make sure you are on our newsletter mailing list to receive important announcements. Additionally, our facilities are available for local organizations to sponsor productions, fundraisers, and cultural and religious gospel events.

In 1965, the Women’s Division of the Ahoskie Chamber of Commerce saw beyond the dust and decay of an old movie house and saw a legitimate theatre and civic auditorium that would host visiting artists and provide a training arena for aspiring area thespians and artists.

After negotiating and signing a lease, the dream-makers sold “stock” at $25 each, and The Gallery Theatre, Inc. was born. Following several months of extensive clean up and a few structural improvements to the building, volunteers began producing plays, sponsoring art exhibits (many times with local artists), and hosting other cultural events. Dedicated officers and board members kept activities moving through both good and bad times.

On January 1, 1982, the building officially became the property of The Gallery Theatre, Inc. This acquisition was made possible through stock sales, private and corporate donations, and the support of the Town of Ahoskie.

With renewed vigor, The Gallery began to restore the building. This effort was assisted handsomely in 1983 by the prestigious National Endowment for the Arts. Between 1987 and 1988, the lobbies were completely renovated, air conditioning and heating systems installed, a permanent sign was erected, the stage was rewired, and an electric lighting board was purchased. Financing was provided by grants, stock sales, and other community contributions.

The Theatre was again renovated during the 1940s. The stage was enlarged and a new proscenium arch added. The balcony was extended and rebuilt at a steeper angle to accommodate sight lines. A ventilation system was added which was considered a sign of "remarkable ingenuity." Extra entrances, stairways, and ticket booths were added. These were discreetly removed from principal traffic and are testimony to the racial segregation which prevailed during that period.

The Gallery was awarded a Rural Incentive Grant for 1991-93 which provided funds for stage improvements and implemented funds raised for a sound system honoring Ennis Tayloe. Also, the executive director’s position was expanded to a full-time position.

In 1992, Ruth M. Bouldin and Jessie M. Curry donated a lot on Mitchell Street to The Gallery in memory of their grandparents, Dr. and Mrs. Jesse H. Mitchell, and their parents, Mr. and Mrs. Carl H. Mitchell. An annex connecting to the rear wall of the stage providing work and storage space and new dressing rooms was built. Financing was provided through grants from Z. Smith Reynolds Foundation, Hanes Foundation, and Bryan Family Foundation, and through local contributions.

While the building has undergone some changes, The Gallery’s purpose - to promote and advance cultural interest in living theatre, art, music, and crafts - has remained unchanged. Let us always be proud of the organization’s founders and their foresight, courage, and determination to build a more culturally oriented community.

Erected on Main Street as a focal point of commercial life, the building now known as The Gallery Theatre began in 1906 as a storefront nickelodeon. In 1918 as Ahoskie grew, the storefront operation was expanded and the area now used as the lobby was built. This extension accommodated both the growing nature of railroad circuit performers which supplied near-weekly live shows such as dog acts, juggling acts, and comedians, as well as the demand for a larger town meeting place.

Eric Garrett and his father, J.R. Garrett, then began the planning of The New Richard Theatre (circa 1927). They journeyed to Philadelphia to purchase a pipe organ which included bellows large enough to require a double brick foundation for support. This organ has been described as "the grandest thing anywhere in this part of the state." The cost was $30,000 and required the recruitment of Hal Lyon, a young man from Indiana who arrived wearing a raccoon coat and driving a Stutz Bearcat, to play the complicated instrument for the still-silent movies.

The new portion of the theatre created the L-shaped extension to the building, a balcony was added along with six false boxes along the auditorium walls which eventually held speakers when the "talkies" came along. The older portion of the building was also redecorated bringing the total cost to $29,000.

The grand opening of The New Richard Theatre was held in September 1928 and featured the best films of the era as well as continuing live performances. The building itself boasted a theatre house phonecian in concept and lobbies with a Spanish motif The elegant ticket cage, still in use, is reminiscent of the heavy Edwardian designs used by Thomas Lambe.

Volunteerism, the backbone of The Gallery, resurged in October 1985 with the organization of Stagegcraft and its active representation on the Board of Directors. The members of this group established themselves as highly visible and skilled arms of the parent organization and their contributions have, through the years, added greatly to the overall success of The Gallery.

During the past few years, the building has undergone significant improvements including: painting and rewiring of the auditorium, cleaning and painting of the auditorium seats, installation of a new concrete floor and wiring in the original dressing rooms, installation of stage lighting additions, and additions of larger restrooms. Funds for these improvements came from the annual “Friends of The Gallery” fund drive.

The New Richard Theatre continued showing popular films until it closed in 1962. Four years later the "old” Richard Theatre was discussed in length by the Chamber of Commerce and town officials. The options being discussed for the building were demolition to provide off-street parking which was considered a "desperate need" for Ahoskie's downtown and a combination public library and municipal theater.

Thankfully, both of these options were rejected, and we still have this piece of town history. The building had undergone many improvements and renovations since it was first rented in 1966, and especially since The Gallery Theatre, Inc. purchased the property in 1980. What has not changed is that the building is still a home for fine entertainment for the people of the Roanoke-Chowan area.

A great historical theater that has carried on the traditions of entertaining, educating, and enriching the community for 50 years. The people here are some of the most talented and professional found in any venue.
- Tony Jenkins



Gallery Theatre projects are supported by the NC Arts Council, a division of the Department of Cultural Resources.