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New scenes at historic Holly Theater
Downtown Dahlonega playhouse finishes its face-lift
0310HOLLY-2
The historic Holly Theater in downtown Dahlonega has been undergoing renovations including new seats, lighting, flooring and carpet. The renovations were finally finished last month. - photo by Kristen Oliver

Holly Theater

Where: 69 W. Main St., Dahlonega

Contact: 706-864-3759 or hollytheater.com

At night in Dahlonega, one of the city’s oldest attractions still lights up downtown.

And structurally, the historic Holly Theater resembled one of the oldest buildings on West Main Street until recently.

The theater finally completed much-needed renovations, some of which had not been done since the building’s construction in 1946.

Holly Theater volunteer Hal Williams said the repairs to the theater had been in the works for several years.

“When the Great Recession hit, the theater was affected like everybody else,” Williams said. “A lot of things were happening, a lot of repair forecasted, that we had to put off.”

During the recent round of renovations, theater volunteers and board members secured a few more grants than usual, enabling them to install a new roof in 2014. It was the first new roof since the original was constructed in the ’40s.

“We’d been patching that roof for years and years,” Williams said. “We now have a roof that does not leak, and it is a thing of beauty.”

The Holly Theater also added new lighting instruments and a new sound system. The old film room above the theater now serves as the tech and sound room.

In January, the theater closed to put in a new ceiling, restore the old marquee and repoint the theater to eliminate sunlight from coming through during productions.

Williams said the marquee restoration was a particularly exciting update.

“The Fox Theater Foundation gave us a $10,000 grant for that project,” he said. “It’s really nice. It’s LED, but it still looks like the old neon.”

The building’s interior and exterior have retained their original Art Deco decor. A mirrored, Gatsby-era concession booth greets visitors as they walk in the doors under the marquee.

All of the renovations during the past three years were valued at more than $100,000, Williams said. Funding them was no small feat.

“The thing to remember about the Holly Theater is that we are a community theater, in the purest sense,” Williams said.

The theater is operated by a team of volunteers and has been since its conversion from a movie theater in the early 1990s.

“When we took over the building in 1991, it was a wreck,” Williams said. “The roof was leaking like a sieve. There were old wooden seats. And the stage was about 4 feet back, because it was originally a movie theater.”

Plus, the city was developing downtown Dahlonega and the area’s tourism industry when the building was sold. To assist with that goal, the theater presented an opportunity to bring people to the area at night, Williams said.

Soon after, Colleen Quigley, who now works as the Forsyth Central High School theater director, was hired as the Holly Theater director. She suggested starting a production company at the theater.

“We really weren’t thinking about being a production company at that time,” Williams said. “That just kind of happened by accident. But a lot of things happen by accident, and they’ve been all the good things.”

The production company helped bring in the majority of the theater’s consistent funding throughout the next several decades. Last year, 65 percent of its revenue came from productions, concerts and children’s educational programs. About 23 percent came from donations. The remaining revenue came from grants and fundraising.

“Most small-town theaters are either hurting or closing down like this one was,” Williams said. “They’re being very underutilized, and most don’t have a production company. The Holly is unique in that the majority of our income each year — about 60-something percent — is from produced shows.”

The Holly recently wrapped production of its first show of the season, “The Nerd.” Future productions will include “Smoke on the Mountain,” “Footloose,” “Little Shop of Horrors” and “Miracle on 34th Street.”

Several children’s productions and concerts will occur throughout the year.

Williams said he and the people behind the Holly are thrilled with the recent updates, because it will better help them serve their real mission.

“The idea was always to provide a place to expose the cities of Dahlonega and Lumpkin County to the performing arts,” Williams said.

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