Did You Know? Fun Facts About the Citi Wang Theater

Posted 7 February 2012 12:00 AM by Citi

No matter how often you visit the Citi Performing Arts Center Wang Theatre, from ushers who consider it a second home to out-of-towners visiting for the very first time, its magnificence takes you by surprise every time. In all its incarnations over 86 years—movie palace to Broadway beacon to concert venue—the Citi Wang Theatre remains a cultural landmark in Boston for good reason—and here are five:

The Citi Wang Theatre has been called by several names over the years. Originally conceived as the Capitol Hotel, it was re-imagined as a theatre when the investors ran out of money, and named The Metropolitan. In 1962, it reopened as the Music Hall. It wasn’t until 1983, when a life-changing gift from Dr. An Wang saved it from certain demolition, that it became known as the Wang Theatre.

Modeled on Paris’ Opera Comique, the theatre cost $8 million to build; today, that translates to more than 10 times as much. On opening night on October 16, 1925, over 20,000 New Englanders crowded Tremont Street hoping to be among the first to see what newspapers called the “marvel of the show world.”

Ushers have always been an important part of the theatre experience. During the 1920’s, the rules were much more stringent than they are today. For example, all ushers were male and trained by a head usher, an ex-drill sergeant. On the evening of a performance, ushers were carefully inspected, and then sworn to silence—communicating only using a form of sign language.

During the 1970s, the theatre began to show signs of age; the building was literally falling apart when a ten foot section of the ceiling’s roof beam collapsed during a performance. Instead of demolishing the building, individuals led by Dr. An Wang launched a campaign to save the theatre and restore it to its 1920s glory. Today, the Citi Wang Theatre is recognized as one of the most important cultural facilities in New England and listed on the National Registrar of Historic Places.

In Fall 2011, Citi Performing Arts Center received a grant from The Kresge Foundation to support vital facilities maintenance—from upgrades to make heating and cooling the theatre more energy efficient to updating the emergency systems to keep patrons safe and sound.

The next time you attend a performance, we hope you will remember this quick history lesson and consider making a contribution to make sure the theatre remains a “marvel of the show world” for years to come.

For more theatre history, check out Arthur Singer and Ron Goodman’s newly published book Boston’s Downtown Movie Palaces.

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