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posted: 2/26/2014 2:50 PM

Check out Cutting Hall renovations at open house March 1

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  • The interior of historic Cutting Hall, with hand decorated cross beams and Tiffany lamps.

    The interior of historic Cutting Hall, with hand decorated cross beams and Tiffany lamps.
    Courtesy of Palatine Park District

Submitted by Palatine Park District

March 1, 2014 marks the 160th anniversary of the birth of Mr. Charles Cutting, namesake of the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center. This event will be celebrated with an Open House from 2-4 p.m. on Saturday, March 1, at Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center, 150 E. Wood St., Palatine. This event is free and open to the public.

The Open House will highlight recent renovations to the theater and guided tours will be available. In addition, local theater and performance groups will be on hand to answer questions and distribute information about upcoming shows and performance opportunities. Light refreshments will be served, including a birthday cake, and door prizes will be awarded. Entry into the drawing is free.

The theater has been an integral part of the arts environment in Palatine since it was built in 1928, as part of the original Palatine High School. The auditorium is named after the first principal, Mr. Charles S. Cutting, who was born in Highgate Springs, Vt., on March 1, 1854. He received his early education in Minnesota and graduated from Williamette University in Salem, Ore. In 1874, he came to Palatine to pursue a teaching career, and six years later was admitted to the Illinois State Bar. He went on to become Master Chancery of the Circuit Court of Cook County and was a member of the Cook County Board of Education for nine years.

When the curtains first opened on the Cutting Hall Stage on Sept. 15, 1928, the theater's appearance was similar to today. The cross work of the beams was hand decorated by Gustave Bandt, one of four artists in the world who did this type of work. Six pillars support the auditorium area, and from each hangs a tiffany lamp which originally used gas as their power source, and the stage curtain displayed the PHS monogram on a purple and gold drape.

School District 211 closed the old high school when they moved to a new, larger facility in 1977. Grass-roots efforts from area residents began a drive in hopes of saving the old high school building to use as a community center. Cutting Hall became a major aspect of this drive and, in the end, that section of the building became a free-standing facility through renovations undertaken by the Palatine Park District.

The intentions of the park district were to restore and preserve Cutting Hall so that area residents would have the opportunity to enjoy and participate in amateur as well as professional productions. Additional renovations included a lobby with a box office and alterations of additional existing classrooms. These classrooms were redesigned to be used as a scene shop, dressing rooms, and a large rehearsal area. Renovations since then have included a seating renovation in 1997, when all 437 seats in the auditorium were replaced.

On Nov. 8, 2010, an electrical fire occurred in the theater coordinator's office causing heavy smoke and water damage to the lobby. The facility was closed to the public for two weeks while restoration crews repaired the damage. In 2013, the lobby restrooms were revitalized to capture the character and spirit of the facility's 1920s appearance.

Cutting Hall has seen substantial use since its first season as a community resource in 1979. During the course of the year, Cutting Hall is utilized by various theater companies from around the area, as well as film screenings. The park district also utilizes the space for programs for children, the Palatine Concert Band, and many other park district programs, including theater, dance, and the Palatine Children's Chorus.

For more information about the Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center or the Open House event, please contact Jeff Greene, theater coordinator, at (847) 991-5318.

Cutting Hall Performing Arts Center is a facility of Palatine Park District. The mission of Palatine Park District is to provide a variety of safe, enjoyable and affordable parks and recreation facilities and activities that will enhance the quality of life by promoting good health and well-being for all residents and visitors of the Palatine Park District.

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