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Mars to make its debut
Springfield venue to open its doors April 25
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Springfield cultural affairs director Tommy Deadwyler said work on the Mars Theatre is continuing and everything should be ready to go when the doors open to the public for the first time in more than 50 years. - photo by Photo by Pat Donahue

The long-awaited premiere for the Mars Theatre has been set.

Tommy Deadwyler, Springfield cultural affairs director, said the Mars’ grand opening will be April 25 and work continues to get the edifice for its debut.

“We were finally able to put a date to the opening,” he said. “We’re going to have a weekend full of activities, two or three concerts and films in the afternoon. It’s going to be a big weekend.”

The exterior of the building is almost finished and there is work left to do inside. Much of that is expected to commence shortly, Deadwyler said, with the lighting and sound systems and seats to be installed, perhaps within the next month.

“There is still interior painting to be finished,” he said. “We’re hoping to have all that finished by the first of March. And that will give me time to tweak it.”

Springfield City Council must give its final approvals, and Deadwyler is confident those will occur.

“Once that happens, things will really kick into gear,” he said, “and people will be on top of each other trying to get work done.”

With Springfield in the middle of the county, Deadwyler expects the Mars to draw audiences from across Effingham and also across county lines.

“It’s a classic and historic space,” he said. “We will have diverse programming. Just give us some time — we’ll be touching on everything and reaching out to every aspect of the community.”

The lighting and sound systems will be state of the art, Deadwyler said during Wednesday’s Effingham Chamber of Commerce monthly membership meeting, and the screen to show movies will be 12 feet by 24 feet.

“I assure you that what we are putting in will create one of the finest listening rooms and theater experiences in the area,” he said.

The theatre, which closed nearly 60 years ago, has been undergoing an extensive renovation.

“The theater had been pretty much stripped of every historic artifact,” Deadwyler said. “We were basically left with a shell. We’re trying to bring back some of the historical features of the building.”

Deadwyler also said the Mars will be a top-flight music venue and it will offer patrons an experience unmatched in the area. Deadwyler, whose background includes booking music acts big and small, noted how surprised he was when he discovered what were the top live music locales in Savannah.

“There’s nothing like it in the area. The experience will be like what you will have in a more major market,” he said. “The more intimate you can get, the closer you can get to an artist, the better experience you’re going to have. That’s what’s great about the Mars — you’ll feel like you’re up and close with the performer. The experience in a small space is better.”

The Mars also expects to show second-run movies, available after their initial distribution for much cheaper prices, and classic films.

“We’ll have a lot of movies,” Deadwyler said. “If you don’t mind waiting, you can come see it at the Mars in three weeks for half-price.”

He also wants to establish a performing arts series and hopes to have school groups come to the theater for different events. The theater also will be available for rental for groups and events.

“The plan is to ensure a culturally rich and happy and vital community that will create growth,” Deadwyler said. “Growth is what we’re looking for in Springfield and at the same time, preserve part of our past. The investment the city has made is substantial.

“Our vision for the Mars is to make this a community destination, not only for the folks and residents of Springfield but the residents of Effingham County. Our goal is to bring educational and diverse programming into a historic theater.”

The target audience is diverse, Deadwyler noted, ranging from kids to adults, with events tailored for families and also for times when the parents want to attend on their own, such as a date night. Deadwyler expects the Mars to serve beer and wine at certain events.

“You will be able to bring the whole family to the theater,” he said. “There also will be events you want to leave the kids at home. We’re also looking for romantics.”

Financial support to keep the Mars operating and to pay for its programming is projected to come from ticket sales, grants, foundations and support of sponsors.

“I’m passionate about the arts,” he said.