NORTH ADAMS -- The Mohawk Theater will reopen Sept. 29, at 8 p.m., for a special one-night-only concert aimed at increasing public awareness and raising funds for the ongoing Mohawk Theater Restoration Project and the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation.
"The Spirit of Johnny Cash," a tribute concert to the late country star featuring Harold Ford & the Cash Band, will be limited to 600 spots -- 400 seats and 200 standing-room only.
Although the theater went dark in 1991, Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Monday that the city won’t ignore its 75th anniversary -- part of the impetus behind holding the concert there.
"It’s the 75th anniversary of the Mohawk Theater, so we feel it’s very, very important to have a show here to recognize that," Mayor Richard J. Alcombright said Monday during an announcement inside the theater. "Johnny Cash was the last performer to have a concert at the theater in 1988."
The concert, which has been in the works for months, was first proposed by Josiah "Joe" Low III, a Williamstown resident and the concert’s sponsor, who has supported similar events at Mass MoCA. Low, a fan of Cash and an ardent supporter of the Williamstown Rural Lands Foundation, originally proposed the concert be held at Mass MoCA.
"We felt this was a great opportunity for residents to be able to come in and see what the theater looks like," the mayor said. "We’re also using this as an effort to
The concert will be produced by Mass MoCA’s performing arts department and Massachusetts College of Liberal Arts will provide volunteers and student talent for the concert’s opening act.
Mass MoCA will also have a camera crew stationed outside the Mohawk Theater during the 17th annual Downtown Celebration this Wednesday, where they will ask local residents to share their memories of the theater on camera. The vignettes will become part of a short documentary that will also screen prior to the concert.
A limited number of VIP tickets for the concert, which go on sale Sept. 5, will be available for $75 and include a cocktail party prior to the event at Desperados, center seating and a gift bag of Mohawk Theater-themed gifts. General admission seating tickets will be available for $29, while standing-room-only will be available for $19 for the general public and $12 for students. Tickets will be available only through the Mass MoCA Box Office or online at www.massmoca.org.
Little work has been done to the Mohawk since the first phase of construction was completed in 2009. First phase work included the gutting of the 1,100-seat theater and repairs to the roof and facade.
"The amenities you see are what you get," Alcombright said, pointing to the walls, which have been stripped down to the original masonry. "We won’t have any bathroom facilities, but we will have portalets available. We’ll also have to have all of the emergency exits open, which means if it’s 45 degrees outside, it will only be 55 degrees inside."
No food or alcoholic beverages will be allowed during the performance, but Alcombright is hoping local merchants and restaurants will adjust their hours for the show.
While the city and MCLA have been working together for the last 18 months, the mayor says he has been reluctant to divulge the exact details of the partnership because he doesn’t want to make a premature announcement.
"I don’t want to ‘over-promise’ anything," he said, noting numerous plans had been rolled out for the Art Deco theater over the last two decades. "I’ve been uncomfortable really getting into it with the media and the general public until we really have a plan that says we’re moving forward."
However, Alcombright says the theater will not undergo a full restoration, as the numbers have become cost-prohibitive and that much of the proposed work still on the table will be contingent on federal New Market Tax Credits.
"As we know, theater restoration projects aren’t being funded like they used to, but the Mohawk is the poster child for theater projects under the New Market Tax Credits," the mayor said. "We have consultants that are working on the plan and the finances. The numbers are really starting to work."
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