Interim executive director Kathi Wall poses Tuesday with a board showing how the exterior bricks will be painted in the next stage of renovations at Colonial Theater in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal Buy this Photo

Organizers trying to restore and reopen the Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta have hired a Belgrade woman and youth advocate as interim executive director.

Kathi Wall, a selectperson in the town of Belgrade, will work part-time for at least the next year to oversee fundraising and restoration efforts of the long-vacant Water Street theater. She has previously led The Edge, a former teen center in Augusta, and the Augusta Boys and Girls Club, and has been a longtime advocate for youth in central Maine.

She said she took the job because she believes restoring and reopening the former theater is important.

“I really believe in this project,” Wall said Tuesday. “First, I really love old historical buildings. And, secondly, I think we really need an infusion of culture of all types here in the Augusta area.

“That includes, but is not limited to, historical movies, documentaries, all kinds of live performances,” she added. “I’m delighted to be able to explore some of the possibilities.”

But before those performances will have a theater stage to take place upon, a significant amount of money has to be raised to restore and reopen the theater.

Restoring and reopening the theater, with a new, 13,000-square-foot addition attached to it, providing modern access and amenities, is expected to cost $6 million to $8.5 million. About $1 million has been raised so far.

Wall will take that on during times that are especially challenging for raising funds, due to the coronavirus pandemic. She said a creative plan will be required to connect with people and bring in donations, despite the need to remain socially distant and at a time when some families are struggling financially.

Wall is hopeful people will be able to give with a brighter future in mind.

“It’s the public and people who live in central Maine that will be able to make this happen, it takes a community,” she said. “A lot of it will be education, informing people of what the possibilities are, and what the dream is, and involving people in the dream for a better future. Because it’s not always going to be COVID.

“I don’t know what the new normal is going to be, but it will have to involve people being happy and enjoying themselves,” Wall added, “and expanding their thinking beyond just the immediacy of today and tomorrow.”

Additional information about the Colonial Theater, including its history and how to support the ongoing restoration, can be found at augustacolonialtheater.org.

Richard Parkhurst, president of the Colonial Theater’s Board of Directors, said organizers were discussing the need for someone to oversee efforts with the theater and Wall’s name — and stellar reputation as an experienced advocate — came up, so he approached her and she agreed to take on the part-time job.

“I think she’ll carry us through a period of time we need to reorganize and keep moving forward,” Parkhurst said. “There are some things we can get done in the next year and she’s the ideal person to do it, a make it happen kind of person.”

She fills a vacancy left when Peter Bezemes, the organization’s first executive director, left the job earlier this year after a short stint in Augusta.

Parkhurst said his departure was amicable, and both Bezemes and theater organizers agreed he wasn’t a good fit for the job. Parkhurst said Bezemes was skilled in construction and programming, but the Colonial Theater isn’t yet ready for much of that kind of work, yet, with the need to raise funds for the project a top need now.

Wall said she’d love to mentor a younger person to eventually take over the theater director’s position in the long term.

“In the meantime I’m perfectly happy to help create the organization that will support the fundraising needed to pull this off,” she said, “or at least get it far enough down the road we can have performances there.”

Wall said discussions are currently focused on how to open an office at the theater and bring the lobby area to life. She wants to work out of the theater herself to “get people into the building so people can dream along with us, with what the potential is with this building.”

Currently the building, which is on the National Register of Historic Places, is undergoing brick-work on its facade, and the facade will be painted in a color scheme to return it to its 1920s appearance.

The original theater was built in 1912, and then rebuilt in the 1920s after a fire. It was last used as a movie house in 1969 and has been unoccupied since then.

Related Headlines


Only subscribers are eligible to post comments. Please subscribe or to participate in the conversation. Here’s why.

Use the form below to reset your password. When you've submitted your account email, we will send an email with a reset code.

filed under:

Kennebec Journal & Morning Sentinel news

Get news and events from your towns in your inbox every Friday.
  • This field is for validation purposes and should be left unchanged.