MOSCOW — The Kenworthy Performing Arts Centre auditorium in downtown Moscow is undergoing a major overhaul.

The roughly $210,000 project, mostly funded by individual donations and grants, consists of replacing decades-old chairs with historically accurate ones, resurfacing the floor and improving lighting.

The Kenworthy, which opened as a public theater in 1926 by Milburn Kenworthy, has been closed since construction started Nov. 11, and will reopen in early January when the project is expected to be complete, Executive Director Christine Gilmore said.

Gilmore said about 270 blue chairs that were installed in the 1980s have been removed, and crews are grinding down the floor to be resurfaced.

She said 260 1920s-era chairs will be installed to better match the historic aesthetic of the building.

“Those blue chairs weren’t necessarily accurate to the period of the theater, and so anything we can do to add a little more ambience to our space and to really honor the history of the theater is something we want to do,” Gilmore said.

She said lighting on the new carpeted aisles is another important part of the project. Safety and comfort are the main reasons for the renovations, Gilmore said.

She said the deteriorating padded chairs, which were used when they were installed in the 1980s, provide little support for people’s backs and legs. The new chairs will be slightly larger and provide more back and leg support.

Gilmore said the floor had some pits, so those tripping hazards need to be addressed.

“It really comes down to our patrons being able to fully engage in what’s happening at the theater,” Gilmore said. “I know a number of people who can’t sit in our chairs for more than an hour and have to either choose to only come for an hour or choose not to come at all.”

She said the theater’s board of directors planned the project for more than two years.

“The Kenworthy is such a community-centric space, a community-driven space, that when people are uncomfortable and tell us, we want to do something about that,” Gilmore said.

Cabeza can be reached at (208) 883-4631, or by email to gcabeza@dnews.com.

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