Morris Performing Arts Center kicks off 100th birthday celebration

Published: Jan. 7, 2022 at 6:48 PM EST
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SOUTH BEND, Ind. (WNDU) - This is the year South Bend’s Morris Performing Arts Center turns 100 years old, and Friday was the day the party started.

“This is a huge milestone. Very, very few theaters in the United States are 100 years old,” said Venues Parks and Arts Director Aaron Perri. “We’ve got a yearlong worth of celebrations planned. There will be different things each month. Different live entertainment opportunities, different ways for you to engage with the Morris.”

Today, officials threw the switch to light a sign mounted above the marquee that simply says “100.”

The Morris also hosted an open house with free cocoa and cookies, along with live music.

The Morris is so old, the cost of a ticket to the first show was just 22 cents.

The list of this year’s shows will be a short one, as crews address some maintenance needs.

“We’ll be dark, the months of July, August, and September,” said Perri. “That’s when our first round of capital improvements will be happening. Most of those will be under the hood upgrades. We’re getting a new roof, we’re getting a new floor, all new mechanicals, all new lighting.”

The Morris will reopen the weekend of September 30th and October 1, with a major festival on the plaza that will feature an as-of-yet unnamed headlining act. “It’ll be a celebration that will perhaps remind some folks of some other types of large-scale experiences the had in downtown through the years. People love to reminisce about the Ethnic Festival, or SB 150. We’re going to try and repeat that scale because we think it’s a major milestone worthy of such.”

There have been a lot of memorable moments made during the near 100-year history of the theatre. Today, past patrons had a chance to step up on stage and share theirs with a camera crew. The clips will be displayed on city social media platforms as the official anniversary of the Morris arrives November 2nd.

Officials are in the middle of a $30-million fundraising campaign to pay for the expansion of the building, and the addition of a new plaza, fountain, and parking garage.

Perri says the campaign is about two thirds complete.

Up to $7 million will come from a bond issue to be repaid using proceeds of the St. Joseph County Innkeepers’ tax.

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