Could a theater one day be added to the budding Harrison Street business district? In an interview with Wednesday Journal last August, Jimmy Binns, a local entrepreneur with more than 40 years’ experience in theater, expressed interest in opening a theater at the “Huskie Dome” space, 217 Harrison, the one with the large paw print on the door.

Chris Kleronomos, partner of the company which owns the spot, says he’s open to the idea.

As a matter of fact, he proposed a performing arts center on Harrison eight years ago. He said the Kleronomos family worked hard with a group of artists starting in 1999 through 2004 to open a theater, art gallery and performing arts center in the district. The family funded the venture entirely, he said, dishing out over $350,000 for the center located at 202-208 Harrison.

“At that time, maybe the synergy wasn’t right,” he said. “I think it’s [an] excellent [idea], but the community’s got to be willing to support that type of thing.”

Kleronomos said theaters are generally cooperative efforts between the public and private sectors of the community. He felt there wasn’t enough support from the arts community and the public during the original venture.

“I certainly think it would be a great addition to the neighborhood,” he said of the possibility.

As for Binns’ idea of having flexible rent payments to match fluctuating ticket sales for performances, Kleronomos said, “We consider anything that’s reasonable that accommodates the business aspect of the relationship.”

At the same time, he emphasized his company wasn’t interested in renting space at below market value or on a “piecemeal” basis.

“There’s got to be a lot of people coming to the party to even consider something like that,” he said of a potential theater.

Even more ‘Bountiful’

Village Players has a hit on its hands. And a birthday girl to celebrate. The Madison Street theater company has extended the run of The Trip to Bountiful through Sunday, Oct. 28. Serendipitously, that will also mark the 85th birthday of the show’s star, Betty Scott Smith.

In his review last week, Wednesday Journal theater critic Doug Deuchler wrote, The Trip to Bountiful is not a tearjerker but a strong and touching tribute to the resilient spirit of an amazing woman, played by a resilient, amazing actress. I am in awe of her performance.”

Happy Birthday, Betty. For reservations call 866/764-1010.

Mixed reviews for museum

Lonnie Bunch called Oak Park home for the short while he served as president of the Chicago History Museum. He left to become the founding president of the Smithsonian Museum’s National Museum of African American History and Culture. While the bricks and mortar version of that museum is not expected to open until 2015 on the Washington Mall, Bunch has launched early web-based exhibits at

That effort got a lukewarm reception Monday on the arts page of the New York Times. The first exhibit is called “Let Your Motto Be Resistance: African American Portraits.” It was described as broad and bland by the Times critic as he singled out the inclusion of performers such as Diana Ross and Wynton Marsalis as lacking in gravitas.

Local landmarks still have shot at funding

Pleasant Home and Unity Temple failed to garner the top vote in the “American Idol of historic preservation,” which would have guaranteed funding for critical restoration projects. However, the two landmarks can still earn a chunk of the $1 million American Express is awarding in the Internet competition.

The Pui Tak Community Center in Chinatown was the top vote-getter, and thus is the only contestant out of 25 assured to receive grant money for restoration in the Partners in Preservation initiative, run by American Express and the National Trust for Historic Preservation. The Chicago Tribune first reported the vote results last Friday.

An advisory committee comprised of locals knowledgeable in preservation will now decide which of the remaining 24 sites will receive funding, with an announcement forthcoming on Nov. 13.

The committee will decide based on the results of the Internet vote, comments posted on the contest website, and open houses at the sites, among other criteria, said Laura Thompson, executive director of the Pleasant Home Foundation

“Despite the valiant efforts of our community, I’m not sure why we couldn’t seem to climb out of the lower places,” Thompson said. As of Oct. 10, the final day of voting, Pleasant Home was in 17th place.

The two Oak Park sites were selected out of hundreds of applicants in the Chicago area.

Pleasant Home needs $250,000 to help repair its surrounding fence, while Unity Temple is seeking $150,000 to repair its roof drains.

“One of the great things about the program is that it introduced historic sites to people whose first love isn’t preservation,” said Emily Roth, interim executive director at Unity Temple, which finished fourth.

“We still feel tremendously thrilled to be part of this program,” Thompson said. “I think it opened a lot of people’s eyes to Pleasant Home.”

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