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The performing arts play an important part in the culture of Pittsburgh. There are multiple theaters and so much history to be seen at each one.
Pittsburgh''s 2,885 seat Benedum Center is the result of a $42 million restoration and expansion of the Stanley Theatre, built in 1928 as "a movie palace version of Versailles." This one-time vaudeville hall has been renovated with grand style. Every detail-from the 500,000-piece crystal chandelier to the gilded plasterwork-has been restored or replicated and after its two-year renovation, it looks as it did on opening night in 1928.
The signature piece of the Benedum Center, the original main chandelier, weighs 4,700 pounds and measures 20 feet high and 12 feet wide. The Grand Lobby mirrors, marble and woodwork are all original, and at the landing on each staircase in the Grand Lobby are 18-foot high original mirrors meant to be reminiscent of the Hall of Mirrors at the Palace of Versailles.
Originally built in 1903 as the Gayety Theater, the Byham Theater opened on Halloween night, 1904. It ran for many years as one of the country''s foremost stage and vaudeville houses, with appearances from such stars as Ethel Barrymore, Gertrude Lawrence and Helen Hayes. In the 1930s, the theater was renamed The Fulton and became a full-time movie theater. The Pittsburgh Cultural Trust purchased the theater in 1990 and following the first of four planned phases of renovation, the Fulton was reopened in May 1991. It was later renamed the Byham Theater through a naming gift from the Byham family following the second phase of renovation in 1995.
The Gayety boasted pressed copper cherubs painted with a bronze patina, imitation gold leaf, stained glass windows, plaster columns and wainscot of scagolia, an Italian faux marble technique. In the entry vestibule, note the original mosaic tile floor and the many bare light bulbs lining the ceiling, evidence of the advent of electrical lighting. The old lighted Fulton marquee was restored by the State Museum of Pennsylvania in Harrisburg. The second phase of renovations brought new restrooms, box office, marquee, an elevator, lobby improvements and facade changes. In 1997, the Cherub Lobby was restored to its original splendor.
This restored 1926 movie theater's architecture now serves as the backdrop for much of Pittsburgh's cultural activity. It's the crown jewel of venues in Pittsburgh's Cultural District and has an international reputation for grandeur and excellence as a concert hall and showplace. The 2,661-seat world-class venue is home to the Pittsburgh Symphony Orchestra, which performs 30 concerts in the Hall annually.
Despite several renovations over the years, much of the basic architecture of the building has remained unchanged from its original French Court style. In the Hall's beautiful lobby, ornate Italian marble shines and baroque relief, shimmering crystal lights and exquisite chandeliers provide the allure for an evening of stage and show. Breche opal and Lavanto marble, plush red velvet and shimmering crystal are the main elements in the decoration of the interior of the Hall and 24-karat gold leaf detailing is seen throughout.
The O'Reilly is the Pittsburgh Cultural Trust's only newly constructed theater. It was created with two purposes: to create a Downtown home for the Pittsburgh Public Theater and add an additional venue for theater, music and other performances. Designed by world-renowned architect Michael Graves, the O'Reilly Theater is the only downtown performance venue that features a thrust stage, surrounded by the audience on three sides. Its aesthetic is signature Graves-smooth, polished, pared-down and classic. The theater's wood is all curly maple, with the sensuous grain producing the primary decorative effect. Built at a cost of $25 million, the 650-seat capacity, state-of-the-art theater officially opened in December of 1999.