Kathi Wall, center, has stepped down as the executive director of the Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta after four years. She is joined by interim director Cathy Milojevic-Kaey, left, and Andrew Silsby, chairman of the theater’s board of directors. Photo courtesy of the Colonial Theater

AUGUSTA — Kathi Wall, who spent the last four years as executive director of the Colonial Theater in downtown Augusta and many years before that leading other community organizations, has stepped down as director.

She plans to remain involved in the theater’s work-in-progress revival, and has already joined the nonprofit theater’s board of directors. And that board has promoted Wall’s former executive assistant, Cathy Milojevic-Kaey, to be interim executive director of the vacant former movie house. Theater officials say Milojevic-Kaey could eventually become the theater’s long-term executive director, if she and the theater’s board find that role to be a good fit.

Wall, who is 80, previously led The Edge, a former teen center in Augusta; the Augusta Boys and Girls Club; and Maine Lakes Resource Center. Wall said it’s time for her step down from her hands-on leadership roles with the theater.

“I have run organizations and projects for the last 50 years, maybe more. That’s a lot of decision-making, a lot of directing of activities,” Wall said. “It was just time to take on a different role.”

She plans to stay involved in the theater’s ongoing restoration as a board member.

“This particular project has always been a community project, not a singular type of project, because people have all kinds of memories, all kinds of feelings and thoughts about the theater,” Wall said. “A lot of Augusta’s history is wound up in that theater, so it was important for me to continue to be a part of that project. Even though I didn’t want to tell people what to do anymore.”


Wall served as executive director of the vacant theater for four years.

The ongoing renovation of the Colonial Theater in Augusta is shown in June 2023. Steve Collins/Sun Journal file

Andrew Silsby, chairman of the theater’s board of directors, said Wall helped move the theater project forward despite taking on the job in the midst of the COVID-19 pandemic, which made public gatherings — a major piece of most fundraising efforts — off limits or difficult at best.

“Kathi did a wonderful job, she really showed the board of directors what a paid executive director can do for the organization, really helped us immensely with grant writing and has been able to move us significantly along our path,” Silsby said. “We needed her, she’s been very dedicated and has done a fabulous job.”

Silsby said Milojevic-Kaey, who took over as interim director earlier this month, has worked with Wall for the last eight months. The goal now is to give her a chance to see if she can do the job into the future, so the theater’s board is not currently seeking a long-term replacement. Prior to joining the theater, Milojevic-Kaey, 51, of Windsor worked in education for more than 25 years.

“It was a unanimous vote from the board to add Kathi to the board and also a unanimous vote to have (Milojevic-Kaey) as interim and we’ll make some determination, over the next six months or so, whether this is the right fit,” Silsby said. “My feeling is yes, this will work.”

The Colonial Theater on Water Street in Augusta, shown in June 2023, features an art deco exterior and an interior that’s undergoing renovation to restore its grandeur. Steve Collins/Sun Journal file

Milojevic-Kaey said Tuesday she’s always loved history and the arts and the Colonial embodies both of those.


“Even in its rundown state inside, it is a sight to behold,” she said of the riverside theater. “It is a downtown landmark both as a pillar of the Water Street Historic District and as a cornerstone for the revitalization efforts downtown. I am so excited by the recent work completed at Johnson Hall in Gardiner, and by the investments in Waterville’s arts district, but we’ve yet to realize that here in our state’s capital. As Kathi Wall framed it: there is an emerging arts corridor from Gardiner to Waterville, and beyond, and we want to be part of that.”

Before the extensive restoration of the theater may take place, however, much more money needs to be raised. Some improvements — including new roofing, a restored, historically accurate unique paint job on the building façade, and a major cleanup of coal ash from the basement — have already taken place with donated and grant funds.

Previously, restoring the theater was expected to cost about $8.5 million, but that was before the cost of construction materials escalated, and that estimate was made before actual plans and designs were in place.

Silsby last year told city councilors in Augusta the theater already received, and spent on renovations, about $2 million. The theater was also awarded $1.5 million in congressionally directed spending, which U.S. Sen. Susan Collins celebrated with a visit to the theater, to pay for construction of a new, larger stage and other improvements. And theater leaders anticipate it will qualify for about $2 million in historic preservation tax credit funding. Maine Community Foundation RevitalizeME grant funding will pay for new and restored windows and doors to be installed this year.

Alex Wall holds a flashlight on April 4, 2023, as U.S. Sen. Susan Collins tours the balcony at the Colonial Theater in Augusta. Joe Phelan/Kennebec Journal file

Silsby told councilors last year the theater will probably still need to raise between $5 million and $7 million more to pay for the ambitious plans to bring it back to life, while following historic preservation guidelines to preserve it.

He said a more precise estimate would come once the design and construction drawings for the restoration are complete.


Those plans to restore the theater, which already included a proposal to add a modern support building alongside it to house bathrooms and improve accessibility, now include a second additional building to supplement the 1827 theater building.

Silsby said the additional building, which would be built just to the north of the old theater but out of the Kennebec River floodplain, would be a multipurpose facility that could serve as space for meetings and other gatherings, and rehearsal space, all of which could be rented out. Restaurant space on the second floor of the proposed building could be leased out to a restaurant operator and bring additional revenues to the theater.

Silsby said Colonial Theater officials, in touring other theaters, learned most theaters don’t bring in enough revenue just from ticket sales to be sustainable, so they’re looking for additional revenue sources, such as concessions, wherever they can find them.

The theater was placed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2014.

Milojevic-Kaey said she is certain the needed funds to restore and reopen the Colonial Theater will be raised and they will continue to seek grant funds while expanding fundraising efforts in the near future.

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