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Wooster’s Lyric Theater restoration part of holiday Window Wonderland

The Lyric Theater in Downtown Wooster in under renovation. Jeremy Thomas, managing director, stands in the space.
Guinevere Steensen
Main Street Wooster
The Lyric Theater in Downtown Wooster traces its history to 1912, but it has been dormant since 2010. Jeremy Thomas, managing director, will unveil some of the restoration work to the public during an open house on Friday, part of Window Wonderland.

Downtown Wooster’s Window Wonderland is Wayne County’s first look at Santa. This year visitors also get a first look at the restoration of the Lyric Theater.

The Lyric traces its history to 1912. Its current location was built in 1979, but the theater has been dormant since 2010. A nonprofit was formed in 2021 to bring it back to life. Now, for the first time, they’re ready to show off some of the work being done in and around the lobby.

Guinevere Steensen, program manager for Main Street Wooster and a Lyric board member, said they’re closing in on their $2.75 million fundraising goal with incentives such as the chance to name a seat in the theater. The entire project is slated for completion next summer.

“It’s going to have documentaries, independent films, live concerts, TED talks, all sorts of things,” she said. “There's three different screening rooms. One is a traditional theater setting. One is a café-theater setting, and one's more of a screening room.”

Steensen is hopeful that the Lyric could also host theater festivals in the future. Even with a traditional multiplex in town and the nearby Wayne Center for the Arts, she said there’s a need for an indoor venue Downtown. One reason is to anchor the burgeoning arts district. Another is the outdoor Main Street Music series she programs from May through October each year. The Lyric could act as an alternate venue during harsh weather.

Santa descends from the rooftops of Downtown Wooster every year as part of Window Wonderland.
Dr. Jeffrey Perkins
Main Street Wooster
Santa descends from the rooftops of Downtown Wooster every year as part of Window Wonderland.

The music series brings live music to Downtown multiple times a week, but it began out of necessity during the pandemic, according to Shannon Waller, executive director of Main Street Wooster.

“It was very challenging to serve our mission to keep downtown thriving,” she said. “One thing that we were able to do was continue the farmer’s market. And we also were given permission to put live music in a very small area under the pavilion. It gave a different mood to the Downtown and allowed people to have some family time with their kids. It really helped uplift the morale of the community.”

Bringing people Downtown is also the goal of Window Wonderland. Waller expects more than 4,000 people on Friday. Windows of businesses will be decorated as part of the annual design contest. Carolers from the Summer Stage Wooster theater company will lead visitors in a singalong. The city’s Christmas tree will be lit, and Santa will descend from the rooftops of Downtown using a hook-and-ladder truck.

“It feels like a Hallmark movie... all the Christmas lights are on and everyone's in a fantastic, jolly mood,” Steensen said.

Kabir Bhatia is a senior reporter for Ideastream Public Media's arts & culture team.