Cab Calloway School of the Arts students, staff, and alumni bid farewell to their beloved theater Monday evening, during a school-sponsored "Lights Out" ceremony.
The current theater, built in 1960, will be gutted and refurbished as a state-of-the-art theater due to be completed by the fall of 2014.
Cab Calloway Dean Julie Rumschlag said she is looking forward to moving on to bigger and better things.
"I came here in 1999, and the theater has been in a state of terrible disrepair since then," she said. "We have done a lot of makeshift creations to make it work. The students need a performance space where they are able to let their talents show. We are ready to move into a whole new era."
The new theater, which residents approved financing for as part of a February 2012 referendum, will seat 950 guests and include a state-of-the art sound system and ticket booth.
The total cost of the project is $12 million.
Red Clay Consolidated School District Facilities Manager Marcin Michalski said he hopes the community will hold on to fond memories of the past, while embracing the excitement to come.
"The end result will be a functional theater," Michalski said while sharing the details of the renovation with the crowd. "Our goal is to make sure the theater is what [the students] deserve and what everyone voted for."
Michalski added that there will not be a bad seat in the house.
"Anywhere you sit, you will be able to see your son, daughter, or family member perform," he said.
Throughout the evening members of the Cab Calloway community shared their favorite memories of the old theater.
"To my friends and me this room was more than an auditorium," Cab Calloway alum Adam Wahlberg recalled. "It had a different meaning. It was a temple of sorts, a place where you could express yourself without ridicule. Today we close the doors and give it to the contractors. In a year, they will give it back."
Wahlberg, who graduated in 2003, said he and his classmates didn't mind that the theater was in disarray.
"The things that were wrong were reminders that we were taking part in something bigger than ourselves," he said.
Senior Caroline Colino said the seven years she spent in the theater represent a stepping stone for personal and artistic growth, and she is happy other students will get to experience the same.
"I am thankful for the referendum that gives students the opportunity to perform in a theater they truly deserve," she said, fighting back tears.
Following "Lights Out," guests were treated to a performance by the school's Jazz Under the Stars ensemble.
Page 2 of 2 - For those looking to have their own piece of Cab Calloway School of the Arts history, "Lights Out" marked the start of a fundraiser allowing donors to support the theatre and obtain a commemorative piece of the current stage flooring.
Cab School Fund board member Chris Trincia said the 6-square-inch pieces will be engraved with a copper seal acknowledging Cab Calloway School of the Arts, Charter School of Wilmington and Wilmington High School Theatre.
"We decided to use pieces of the floor because so many students have graduated from this school and been on this stage," Trincia said. "It means something to them."
Each commemorative piece will be sold for $50, and proceeds will go toward any extra expenses that may be needed to maximize the educational value of the new theater, officials said.
If you are interested in purchasing a commemorative piece, orders can be placed on the school's website, www.cabcallowayschool.org.