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posted: 3/31/2016 5:00 AM

Suburban natives team up to save theater

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  • Earl Halbe, an East Aurora High School grad, is teaming up with Sal Viviano, a Schaumburg High School grad, to save the foreclosed Will Rogers Theater where both watched movies while students at Eastern Illinois University. The photo was taken in 1940, two years after the theater was built.

    Earl Halbe, an East Aurora High School grad, is teaming up with Sal Viviano, a Schaumburg High School grad, to save the foreclosed Will Rogers Theater where both watched movies while students at Eastern Illinois University. The photo was taken in 1940, two years after the theater was built.

  • Schaumburg High School grad Sal Viviano, left, and East Aurora High School grad Earl Halbe, right, act together in an Eastern Illinois University production of the musical "Hair."

    Schaumburg High School grad Sal Viviano, left, and East Aurora High School grad Earl Halbe, right, act together in an Eastern Illinois University production of the musical "Hair."

  • Video: "The Miracle Worker" trailer

 
 

Earl Halbe was born and raised in Aurora and graduated from East Aurora High School before earning a theater arts degree at downstate Eastern Illinois University in 1979.

While at EIU, Halbe appeared in several plays, one a musical, "Hair," with Schaumburg High School grad Sal Viviano, now a noted Broadway performer and musician. The two also spent a chunk of time watching movies at the local Will Rogers Theatre.

Neither one could have predicted that 38 years later, Halbe would be spearheading a community organization to save the very same theater from the wrecking ball.

Halbe chairs the Will Rogers Theatre Project, created to buy, rehab and operate the foreclosed theater -- built in 1938 with a seating capacity of 1,000 -- as a community arts and entertainment facility.

On Saturday, April 2, Viviano and I will co-host a fundraiser for the effort. (I am bringing miscellaneous movie memorabilia to sell at the event.)

For information on the theater, go to ilovethewill.com. Halbe said every dollar counts to save the Will, which in 2011 was placed on Landmarks Illinois' list of the 10 Most Threatened Historic Sites in the state.

"I saw a lot of movies there," Halbe said with a nostalgic note. "That's where I saw 'Star Wars.'"

Film critics notebook:

• Chicago Media Project presents "DOC10," a film festival of 10 documentaries running April 1 through 3 at the Music Box Theatre, 3733 N. Southport Ave., Chicago. The fest features works by noted filmmakers Barbara Kopple, Werner Herzog and Albert Maysles. Go to musicboxtheatre.com for tickets and schedules.

• The Midwest Independent Film Festival presents Brad Besser's feature-length documentary "Beaver Trilogy Part IV" 6 p.m., Tuesday, April 5, at the Century Centre Cinema, 2828 N. Clark St., Chicago. It's a follow-up to cult director Trent Harris' three films about a character called "Groovin' Gary" or "the Beaver Kid" between 1979 and 1985. Go to midwestfilm.com.

• Join me and film historian Raymond Benson as Dann & Raymond's Movie Club celebrates some of the best biopics ever made for the silver screen. "The Lives of Others: The Great Biopics" starts at 7:30 p.m. Thursday, April 7, at the Schaumburg Township District Library, 130 S. Roselle Road, Schaumburg. Free admission! Clips from such classics as "Lady Sings the Blues," "Young Mr. Lincoln" and even "The Miracle Worker," featuring stellar work from a very young actress named Patty Duke. Go to schaumburglibrary.org.

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