If you’ve spent any time in downtown Tucson, chances are you’ve passed the old Teatro Carmen. Located at 380 South Meyer Ave, the location has long been a private establishment and not open to the public. Of course, that has only added to the intrigue. It’s a 106-year-old structure, and there’s something about the arched doorway over the blood-red doors and the peeling orange paint that makes it stand out and beg for subtle attention.
Well, there’s good news if you’ve ever wondered what it was like on the inside. Statford ArtWorks, Inc. recently purchased the property from Bacon Industries, Inc. for $940,000. It will become a 300-seat capacity theater in downtown Tucson, which will help fill a key void in the downtown area for live theater that can seat more than a few dozen guests.
While there will be updates going on to the theater, it won’t lose its charm, nor will it be hosting events it wasn’t designed for. In fact, when the building opened in May of 1915, it was designed as a theater. It served as a Spanish-speaking performance outlet for about a decade, with “Cerebro y Corazon” being the opening production.
However, the theater portion of the building didn’t last much longer. In 1922 the building started to function as a cinema, boxing arena, a ballroom, and even an Elks Lodge, eventually pushing out the live productions and theater performances. Many of the surrounding buildings were lost to time, either due to severe damage or buyers renovating and updating properties. However, the Teatro Carmen was able to survive (named for by Carmen Soto Vasquez, the founder of the theater).
One of the longest tenants within the building was a black social club (it did not have a specific name for the club) and was an important, safe destination for African American community members starting pre-World War II and through the 1960s Civil Rights movement, before being sold in 1986.
Now that the building has been purchased and it will be returned to its original design: hosting theater productions, new owners have said the building will require almost a complete restoration (which is 8,700 square feet). The restoration will include improvements to the structural integrity of the building, plus the construction of a new stage, fly loft, and, for those looking to enjoy a beverage before or after a show, the connected building to the side will be converted into a restaurant and bar, complete with patio. Plans are to have the bar and restaurant open up at all times, and, realistically, the restaurant will be open before renovations to the theater are finished.
Theater productions will be the biggest part of the building, once it has finished renovations, but there will be other events within the Teatro Carmen as well. This includes the ability for community members to rent out the space for special events. And with the stage and seating installed it will also be able to host not only film screenings, but also take part in the Tucson Film Festival, which will help lend a much-needed screen to the festival. Plus, with its location and the beauty of the building, it helps give a different vibe to seeing any kind of event, whether it is live theater or a movie, then what guests can find anywhere else in the city.
Stratford ArtWorks, Inc. Has been operating in Tucson since 1996 and has worked on a number of important locations and venues around the city, including the Fox Theater. To stay up to date on the newest improvements to Teatro Carmen, visit their websites for further details.
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