Filling the seats once again

Seventeen years after the Miller Theater’s 1940 opening, it held the world premiere of the film The Three Faces of Eve, Hollywood’s adaptation of the bestselling book of the same name by Medical College of Georgia psychiatrists Dr. Corbett H. Thigpen and Dr. Hervey M. Cleckley. Both the book and the 1957 movie tell the true story of a woman who suffered from multiple personality disorder, and the world premiere brought star power and national attention to Augusta and more specifically the Art Moderne-style theater on Broad Street.

The venue closed in 1984 and floundered until 2005, when Augusta businessman and philanthropist Peter Knox IV bought it, stabilized it and then, in 2008, offered it to the Augusta Symphony. The symphony eventually accepted, and after a $23 million renovation, a new 1,300-seat Miller Theater opened on Jan. 6, 2018.

“I still get goosebumps when I think of opening night,” says Anne Catherine Murray, the Augusta Symphony’s executive director. “None of us will forget that night because it took a village to get there.”

Although the COVID-19 pandemic forced the theater to close to the public in late March, Murray says owning the theater has given the symphony opportunities other orchestras haven’t been fortunate to have, from multiple subscriber options for the “Fall Reimagined” schedule to virtual “Community Chords” outreach events they’ve been able to record for local schools and the Veterans Affairs Hospital.

“When you look at some of these orchestras and theaters around the country that have just canceled everything or are completely dark, I feel like we’re in a good position and doing the best we can with the situation we’ve been dealt,” Murray says.

Murray’s favorite thing about the Miller?

“I guess there’s something about that curtain,” she says. “When I see it go up, it just gives me the chills. It’s very symbolic to me of all that we’ve been able to accomplish.”

And while the theater has sat empty for the majority of 2020, Murray is eagerly awaiting the day when the doors swing wide, the seats are filled, and the curtain rises as before.

“I don’t see anyone over here stomping their feet or shedding tears, because we’re finding ways to adapt,” she says. “But we want that curtain to rise, and we’re doing our best to get it there.”

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