Mission Accomplished

The Historic Wayne Theatre reopens with a flourish. 

After 16 years, an $11 million-plus renovation, and a deathbed promise, it’s finally time for the Historic Wayne Theatre to shine again. 

The venue, opened Jan. 18, 1926 as Waynesboro’s first vaudeville and silent movie theater, seemed destined to become a parking lot after years of financial difficulties and a devastating fire nearly closed the neo-classical venue featuring an Arthur Jordan Orchestra pipe organ. Then, in 2000, community leaders, including the late Lillian Morris, stepped in to save the theater.

“She was a tough lady. She got it organized and incorporated as a 501(c)3,” recalls Clair Myers, director emeritus of the Wayne Theatre Alliance, the entity created by Morris. Later, diagnosed with a terminal illness, Morris made her successor, Bill Hausrath, “swear on her deathbed that he would get this done,” says Myers.

Hausrath did, with the help of individuals like Myers, who became the first full-time paid staffer in 2006, and Tracy Straight, a former board member who is now the theater’s executive director.

While the pipe organ is gone, historic features include a restored façade, lobby and original stained glass. There’s also a Historic Colored Entrance and stairwell to the once-segregated side of the balcony, intact from 1926. Now, current performances and the monthly Shenandoah Jamboree are bringing national artists to Waynesboro. WayneTheatre.org


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