Long Center for the Performing Arts
111 N. 6th Street,
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The Mars Theatre was built for the Luna Amusement Company and was designed by the Lafayette architectural firm of Nicol, Scholer & Hoffman. It was built by local contractor A. E. Kemmer and opened on the evening of April 19, 1921. The Ed. Wynn Musical Carnival performed the opening show, followed by the newly-formed Mars Orchestra. The theatre was used primarily for vaudeville, while the Luna Amusement Company’s other theatres (the Luna and Family Theatres ) showed moving pictures and vaudeville. In January, 1929, the Mars showed Lafayette’s first “talking” motion picture, a film called “On Trial”.
The Mars operated as a movie theater until 1977, when it was given to the city by the Dennis Long family. At that time it was renamed the Long Center for the Performing Arts. It became the home of the Lafayette Symphony Orchestra, the Long Center Theatre Organ Society, and the Lafayette Ballet Company. The original Seeburg-Smith Unified organ was replaced by a more elaborate “Mighty Wurlitzer” organ. Despite heavy use by these and other prominent local groups, the Long Center continued to deteriorate.
In 1999, the building underwent a thorough restoration which brought the auditorium and other public spaces back to their 1921 appearance. This work was done by the renowned Conrad Schmidt Studios. An unsympathetic 1940s Art Deco marquee had replaced the original marquee and sign. These were replicated during the restoration, with the sign modified to read “Long” instead of “Mars” as the original did.
The Long Center is a critical facility which provides an appropriate environment for the performing arts. It is well worth visiting to see a show in such beautiful surroundings.
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