Theater tak­ing a well-earned bow

♦ The DeSoto, Rome’s Grand Dame of theater, cel­e­brates 90 years this week.

Rome News-Tribune - - FRONT PAGE - By Doug Walker [email protected]

Rome’s His­toric DeSoto Theatre cel­e­brated 90 years of en­ter­tain­ing gen­er­a­tions of Rome and Floyd County res­i­dents Satur­day. The build­ing was a work­ing theater house, built specif­i­cally for “talkies” in 1929. It con­tin­ued to op­er­ate as a theater through 1982 when it was taken over by the Rome Lit­tle Theatre group.

The RLT or­ga­ni­za­tion is al­most as old, at 86. Be­fore tak­ing over the DeSoto it op­er­ated out of a fa­cil­ity on Maple Av­enue for many years.

An open house Satur­day fea­tured tours of the build­ings, a birthday cake cut­ting with can­dles blown by out Gordon Leiter, who will turn 90 him­self this win­ter. Leiter has been ac­tive with the or­ga­ni­za­tion since 1968 when he played the role of a Sumo wrestler in “Tea­house of the Au­gust Moon.” His final role was in the Nor­man Thayer Jr. role in “On Golden Pond,” played on the sil­ver screen by Henry Fonda.

For the past 11 years, the build­ing has been man­aged by the His­toric DeSoto Theatre Foun­da­tion. David Clonts, pres­i­dent of the foun­da­tion, said the group has raised funds — close to a mil­lion dol­lars — over the past decade to bring the build­ing back to the shape it’s in to­day.

The first big project in­volved ma­jor re­pairs to the roof, then the Fox In­sti­tute helped re­ha­bil­i­tate the en­trance gallery to the build­ing. All of the seats were re­placed and then a cou­ple of safety grants helped with the fire safety and elec­tri­cal sys­tems.

Doug Walker

Gordon Leiter, a Rome Lit­tle Theatre sup­porter for 51 years, got the honor of blow­ing out the can­dles on the theater’s 90th birthday cake Satur­day. The slice of cake is be­ing held by RLT Board Pres­i­dent Suzanne Clonts. The cast of “Mama Mia!” watches from the stage.

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