Irwin officials optimistic about future of Lamp Theatre

| Thursday, July 25, 2013, 2:25 p.m.

The Lamp Theatre in Irwin has seen better days, and borough officials hope a renaissance is on the horizon for the 86-year-old building.

It currently sits vacant with no chairs and peeling and water-stained wallpaper coming away from the theater's crumbling drywall, along with a narrow, empty stage. Two inches of water lines the theater's basement from a recent storm.

Still, Irwin Council president John Cassandro sees the Lamp as a great development opportunity. He led the Norwin Star on a tour late last week of the building.

Cassandro and borough officials hope to turn the building into a 350-seat theater for live performances and movie screenings.

Irwin acquired the Lamp Theatre from the Westmoreland Cultural Trust in June, and began developing plans to rehabilitate the former movie house.

Officials hope to bring in volunteers to help strip the theater down to its studs, Cassandro said.

“Some of the biggest parts are already done – the HVAC system is new, the electric system is ready to go, and the plumbing is all new and ready to go,” Cassandro said.

The borough's preliminary plans include building stadium-style seating along the back of the theater, and extending the stage by about nine feet, Cassandro said.

The plans also include an orchestra pit at the foot of the stage, he said.

“This stage was really only ever designed for a movie house,” Cassandro said. “It was never really meant for live performances, so expanding it will give us plenty of room, including a backstage area.”

Outside of the main theater, officials hope to build two small retail spaces to house concession stands on either side of the building. Cassandro said officials envision the main lobby as a way to pay homage in some way to those who helped in the borough's rehabilitation efforts.

Kathleen Heuer, a member of the Relight the Lamp committee, which conducts fundraisers for the theater rehabilitation project, said the theater's current state makes it a blank slate.

“The beauty of this is we can take input from the community and work with what they want to see,” Heuer said. “The plan is to keep the past close to our hearts, and any modernizations to the theater will increase its usability.”

Ideally, Cassandro said he'd like to see the Lamp Theatre open its doors next summer, but it all hinges upon how many volunteers donate their time.

“We've had a couple contractors and several residents asking what they can do to help,” he said. “It's encouraging, but we definitely need more help – a lot more help.”

Irwin council plans to host an open house for contractors, which includes tours of the building, on Aug. 7, from 5 to 7 p.m., at the Lamp Theatre.

Brad Pedersen is a staff writer for Trib Total Media. He can be reached at

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