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      Lights up again at old opera house

      The lights may come up again at the 111-year old Menominee Opera House.

      "It was the premier show house for the U.P. in its day. Tragically, it was struck by fire in 1950, which closed it," says curator Mike Kaufman.

      The old ticket booth and parts of the grand staircase still stand. Concrete was poured into the old orchestra pit when it became a warehouse, but the upper balconies and stage remain.

      In 1981, a local Menominee family of actors purchased the building and gave it as a gift to the community.

      William Huntley, head of the restoration committee and its treasurer, said, "John Vennema is an actor and his wife, Alex Neal, is also an actress out of the New York City area. We're real excited since they had such a part in us being able to be standing in front of this building right now."

      The Menominee Opera House Committee is restoring the house back to its splendor as a performing arts center. Huntley says, "Right now, we are just finishing up a project where we've replaced the facade roof. This is all in preparation for what we're calling "Theatre In The Ruins."

      The renovation is supported by a grant from the State Historic Preservation Society. Huntley adds, "It's a reimbursement grant. So, we have to raise all the money first, do the work, they inspect it and then reimburse us for 70 percent of it."

      The committee hopes to refurbish the theatre and return it to the opulence of its heyday in the 1920s. Huntley says Maude Adams, an acclaimed actress, portrayed the role of Peter Pan at the theatre.

      A portrait of Adams and old play bills hang on the old theatre walls. An old poster for selling popcorn still hangs near the ticket booth.

      The restoration committee plans to hold "Theatre in the Ruins," highlighting local musical acts and bring the lights up, once again, inside the old house.