NORFOLK, Va. (WAVY) — A symbolic theater in Norfolk is celebrating its 100th anniversary this weekend.
The Attucks Theater was built in 1919 and served as the epicenter for the African American community for many years.
“It’s something to be proud of,” said Charles Johnson, Jr., the coordinator for this weekend’s celebration.
Johnson says a group of Portsmouth and Norfolk residents wanted to bring a theater to the community in the early 20th century, so they raised money and built it from the ground.
At first, it showed silent films before going on to hosts big names in entertainment, according to Johnson.
“Cab Calloway, Duke Ellilngton, Ruth Brown, Ella Fitzgerald,” he said.
Johnson says the theater attracted big names because it was state of the art.
It also was home to local business owners before closing in 1953.
It reopened in 2004, and while they’ve hosted national names at the Attucks this year for the 100th anniversary, Johnson says they wanted to have a bigger celebration for the community.
“Not only do we honor the history of the theater, but the community that helped build this theater,” he said.
For the two-day celebration this weekend, young local artists will perform as those big named trailblazers who grazed the stage for years.
Johnson says they wanted to highlight the past as well as the future.
“They will be performing one scene, one song, one dance, one speech from them,” he said.
He hopes people will take away this weekend the importance of knowing their history in hopes of repeating the positive things that happened such as communities, like Norfolk’s, coming together to build such a staple.
“Even though it was created by the African American community, it’s open to all people now performing on that stage. But once again it’s something we can look at and say that’s the way it should’ve been in 1919,” he said.
The two-day celebration kicks off Friday night at 7 p.m.
On Saturday, outdoor performances start at 2 p.m. Saturday night performances start at 7 p.m.
The event is free, but you need a ticket to attend.
Click here for tickets and more information