Renovations continue on Irwin's Lamp Theatre

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The hours of volunteer work keep piling up at The Lamp Theatre in Irwin, where the hope is to transform the closed theater into a place where a variety of entertainment can be offered.

“I’m hoping to see a movie in the afternoon and be able to see a play performance in the evening,” said Dee Meighan, volunteer coordinator for Relight the Lamp, the group that is working to resurrect the Main Street theater, which opened in the 1930s and operated until 2005.

Since she started tracking volunteer hours in February, volunteers have worked 435 hours on the renovation, including 100 hours on a work day held last month, Mrs. Meighan said.

The April 5 work party drew 21 volunteers, including three backhoe operators, three electricians, one carpenter, general laborers and others who helped with interior demolition at the theater, she said.

Irwin owns the building, which was formerly owned by the Westmoreland Cultural Trust. Relight the Lamp needs to raise $150,000 to obtain $500,000 in grant money, according to Irwin Councilman John Cassandro.

Irwin Councilwoman Debbie Kelly, who also is a Relight the Lamp volunteer, said $250,000 of the grant money will come from the state and $250,000 from the county after the group proves to the county that the organization has received in-kind donations and cash donations equaling $150,000.

She said the volunteers had about $50,000 as of last month, not including the monetary value of work by volunteers or the food donated to the volunteer work crews.

Most of the interior demolition work has been finished, Mrs. Meighan said.

Part of the floor has been dug up so that terraced stadium seating can be installed. An orchestra pit has been dug. The new stage will be constructed over the pit, and the audience will be able to see the musicians playing.

After the theater is remodeled, it could be a site for jazz and other musical concerts, debates and comedy reviews, Mrs. Meighan and Mr. Cassandro said. A former owner suggested it could also be a site for dance recitals.

Mrs. Meighan remembers going to see one of the Star Wars movies at The Lamp Theatre with her father, Ed Wojtaseski, and she would like to take her 18-year-old son to the movies there.

Retired Irwin solicitor Alan Berk remembers going to the theater as a child and as a teenager.

Before the main movie, he said, newsreels, including those about how the United States and its allies were faring in World War II, plus detective and western serial films were always shown.

Even before he was a teenager, he said, he went to the Lamp Theatre with friends. The Lamp at that time was a “very clean and elegant” structure, and the movies shown were always wholesome, Mr. Berk said.

Relight the Lamp is looking for people who can install metal stud framing, hang drywall or paint. Those interested in volunteering at the theater can contact Mrs. Meighan at 412-576-3897.

Anne Cloonan, freelance writer:

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