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Opinion: NorShor the 'masterpiece it was meant to be'

Duluth Playhouse Executive and Artistic Director Christine Gradl Seitz offers a tour of the newly renovated NorShor Theatre this week, including an opportunity to go onstage, to Duluth business leaders. The historic theater reopened this month after a $30.5 million renovation. The playhouse is its primary tenant and manager. (Chuck Frederick / cfrederick@duluthnews.com)

Speaking to business leaders at a Duluth Area Chamber of Commerce-sponsored luncheon this week, Christine Gradl Seitz, the executive and artistic director for the Duluth Playhouse, asked this question: "Why does this project matter?"

She, of course, was referring to the recently completed, $30.5 million historic renovation of the NorShor Theatre in downtown Duluth. Her playhouse is its primary tenant and manager. After the luncheon inside the ballroom at Greysolon Plaza, she led attendees through a new skywalk link to the theater for a tour.

And she provided plenty of answers to her own question.

"This project matters for a variety of reasons. It brings economic stability and growth and development to our downtown," she said. "There is a difference the NorShor can make for our economy.

"It also will provide a much-needed, mid-sized venue for the arts groups in our town — a very desirable venue. It goes back to the feasibility study (we did before launching the project). We interviewed the arts groups so that we could understand what they needed, so we could build this in a way that can serve them. This mid-sized venue has state-of-the-art equipment that can support our local arts group and regional and national tours. This is important. Many of the tours looking for a venue want a venue that is equipped. ...

"(In addition, the renovated NorShor) will enhance the quality of life for our residents, but I think you already know that," she continued. "It'll strengthen our downtown and our region. And, you know, the NorShor will be just one more reason that Duluth will be an attractive tourist destination. Restoring this center as an arts and entertainment venue will bring new opportunities. It'll bring experiences. It'll bring new memories for generations to come. ...

"I think we can proudly say the NorShor is taking center stage in our downtown. It is the masterpiece it was meant to be. So, thank you, thank you for caring about the arts, thank you for understanding that the arts are a critical part of what makes our town livable. Thank you for investing in your community.

"We won't let you down. We're going to have a magnificent year — and decades to come at the NorShor Theatre," she said. "It doesn't look a whole lot different than it did in the 1940s. It just has a lot of spit and shine on it. ... It's hard to realize the magnificence and the beauty of all these amazing 1940s relics that were restored (as part of the project). There's a big difference between restored and replaced, and our theater was restored. ...

"Go and see a show. It's an experience," said Gradl Seitz. "It's pretty spectacular."

— Chuck Frederick, Editorial Page Editor

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