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New day for Mars ready to dawn

POSTED: April 3, 2014 7:19 p.m.
Photo by Pat Donahue/

With its signage now in place, as shown here Saturday, the countdown for the re-opening of the Mars Theatre is nearing its conclusion.

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It has been almost 60 years since the Mars Theatre last welcomed the public, and the Springfield theater will open its doors April 25 for the first time since 1957.

Completely renovated, the theatre will be a forum for entertainment and artistic gathering. It will offer live music from bands of all genres, movies for families and film lovers, cultural events, and community activities.

“We have outfitted the space with the latest in sound, lighting, and production technology to ensure that the Mars Theatre can support the highest level of entertainment,” said Tommy Deadwyler, director of cultural affairs at the Mars.

A full weekend of concerts and activities is planned for the grand opening celebration, including Grammy-nominated artists The Greencards, who will take the stage April 25 at 8 p.m. The Greencards have toured with Willie Nelson and Bob Dylan and often labeled as part of, and said to be representative of, the new grass movement, they draw from Irish folk music, gypsy music, rock and roll, folk, and Latin American musical styles.

The Springfield Revitalization Corporation will hold its 4th annual Mars Theatre benefit bike ride April 26, which begins at the theatre at 8 a.m. Riders will be able to choose from 18-, 37-, or 65-mile courses, and all proceeds will help support the continued efforts of the theatre. The Mars Theatre will be open that Saturday until 2 p.m. for tours.

The musical celebration will continue that evening, beginning at 8 p.m., when indie-alt-folk group von Grey takes the stage. Having appeared on “Late Night with David Letterman,” “Conan,” NBC’s “Rock Center with Brian Williams,” and CNN’s “Road Warriors,” the harmony-laced foursome has been called everything from an “Americana masterpiece” to simply “crazy-talented” by the media. They have opened for Indigo Girls, Sarah McLachlan, Lindsey Stirling, Rusted Root and Company of Thieves.

Closing the grand opening weekend will be a special 2 p.m. Sunday gospel music celebration with American roots artist Essie Mae Brooks. Brooks is a powerhouse gospel singer born in 1930 in Houston County. Brooks began singing and writing gospel songs to accompany her harmonica-playing grandfather and has never stopped.

“We are ready for the theatre to be open and to re-energize downtown Springfield,” Deadwyler said. “The plan is to ensure a culturally rich, happy and vital community that will generate growth. That growth is what we are looking for in Springfield; and at the same time, we are looking to preserve part of our past.

“Our vision for the Mars is to make this a community destination,” he added, “not only for the folks and residents of Springfield, but our neighbors in Effingham County and the surrounding area, through educational and diverse programming.”

For more information on ticketing and future happenings at the Mars Theatre, visit their Web site at www.marstheatre.com, at facebook.com/MarsTheatre, or call 754-1118.

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