Vintage Dallas theater poised for rebirth as music venue

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by JONATHAN BETZ / WFAA-TV

wfaa.com

Posted on February 28, 2010 at 11:58 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 1 at 2:37 PM

The Kessler Theater

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DALLAS — After sitting empty for nearly three decades, the Kessler Theater is re-opening its doors next month.

Edwin Cabaniss, an Oak Cliff businessman, bought the art deco-style building last year and has spent the past seven months restoring the crumbling structure.

This is the fifth building he’s restored in Oak Cliff. “It’s just a beautiful building, and it just needed a little bit of polishing up,” he said.

Cabaniss has spent thousands turning the 1942 edifice into a music hall that can hold nearly 350 people.

After enduring both a tornado and a fire, little of the original building was saved,  except for the exterior. Cabaniss hopes to soon install a replica of the original marquee.

“It's just a building; when you drive by, you either get it or you don't,” he said. “This building has always spoke to me!”

Soon, he expects to be holding small concerts and dance recitals.

On Sunday, local musicians threw a last-minute memorial concert in the still-unfinished theater for a musician who died recently.

Performers like Kara Howell say Oak Cliff needs more venues for performances. “There are so many artists that live here, and I think it's about time something like this came along,” she said. “I think Oak Cliff deserves it.”

The theater is holding a “soft” opening on March 20 with free performances by area musicians.

E-mail jbetz@wfaa.com

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