Saenger to kick off unique drive for new auditorium seating

Musical Chairs is the theme of a campaign by Friends of the Saenger to raise $125,000 to replace the aged auditorium seating in the Saenger Theatre for the Performing Arts. The campaign kicks off Tuesday, Sept. 10 with a 3 p.m. press conference and a grand game of musical chairs at the theater.

The program will encourage donors to sponsor seats as a means of commemorating special events or fond memories. For a $150 donation, which will purchase one seat, the donor may have his name inscribed on a brass plaque affixed to the back of the seat. For $250, the donor may add a personal inscription. A $500 donation entitles the giver to a commemorative plaque plus two tickets to the Grand Reopening Gala and inclusion on a Patron’s Plaque in the lobby of the Saenger, with $1,000 donors sponsoring two seats and receiving four tickets to the gala. Donors at all levels will receive a specially-commissioned lapel pin bearing the Musical Chairs logo. Other events are planned for throughout the year-long fund-raising period, including a “Chair-ity” Auction, where chairs decorated by various celebrities will be sold. A chair decorating workshop and other creative events will round out the Musical Chairs campaign.

The new seating, which will provide more comfort and leg room for theatergoers, is part of a $1 million auditorium renovation funded by the city, Harrison County and the Mississippi Arts Commission. The current effort, set to begin in January, is the next phase in a restoration plan that began seven years ago and has already included $1.3 million in repairs to the historic building, as well as extensive lobby renovations and enlarged restrooms.

The Saenger has hosted productions as varied as opera, symphony, ballet, theatre, choral presentations and dance recitals. First opened in 1929 as a home for traveling vaudeville shows and later used as a movie theater, it was restored as a center for the performing arts in 1976 in conjunction with the nation’s Bicentennial.

Known as the Gem of the Coast, the Saenger welcomes more than 50,000 theatergoers annually.