Originally built as a movie house, the Lyric opened at the corner of Third and Deweese Street (now Elm Tree Lane) in Lexington. And it quickly became a cultural icon.
Everyone has his or her favorite memory – the movies, fashion shows, vaudeville acts, local concerts, pageants – but during the ‘50s it was Jazz, Soul and R&B music that took center stage, with big-name acts like Ray Charles and Count Basie.
Soulful sounds filled the theatre with other notable performers including: B.B. King; Wynonie Harris, who wrote Good Rocking Tonight, recorded by Elvis Presley; Mercer Ellington, the only son of Duke Ellington; and Billy Brown, formerly of the Dominos, who formed The Checkers and began recording for King Records.
Entertainment wasn’t the only draw. Numerous small black-owned business – from clothing stores to ice cream shops – were launched in and around the theatre.
Before closing in 1963, the theatre returned to its roots as a movie theatre, featuring horror films and black cowboy movies plus Saturday morning cartoons.
The new Lyric offers much more than a chance to relive history. It’s bigger and better than ever. And it promises to be as popular as it was 50 years ago.
In 2014, The Lyric Theatre proudly forged new partnerships with community organizations such as Central Kentucky Youth Orchestra, Roots and Heritage Festival, Japan/American Society of Kentucky and the Lexington Children's Theatre. Our ability to strengthen existing relationships with entities such as Roots and Heritage Festival and WoodSongs Old-Time Radio Hour allowed us to fulfill our mission and vision greater than before. Phenomenal acts such as The Dayton Contemporary Dance Company, Don Flemons, Bela Fleck, and Lee Ann Womack graced the historic Lyric stage bringing us closer to our rich entertainment roots. Exhibits from The Lexington History Museum, Frank X. Walker, Bing Davis, and Gary Bibbs showcased in our Gallery and Museum. We are proud to provide the opportunity to these talented individuals and organizations to educate the community on the importance of the arts. As we navigate the remainder of 2015, The Lyric desires to expand its mission fulfilling programming. We are seeking to implement new and innovative technologies within our facility that create a more engaging and dynamic guest experience. This fall, we aim to release our inaugural season featuring ticket packages and subscriptions set to include benefits and perks to the purchaser. Looking outside of our four walls, we envision our reach into the community to stronger than ever with initiatives focusing on increasing the cultural proficiency for students in the region.
We continue to reach our short term goal which is to educate the general public of significant locations and noted people throughout the historic East End. We have a consistent audience number and are reaching a diverse group that consists of current and former residents, historians, educators and the general curious public.
We hope to see this program grow and reach a minimal of 40 people per tour. In order to accommodate this growth there needs to be more individuals trained to lead the tours and become more knowledge of the people and historic landmarks within the East End community. There are several trails our guide, historian Yvonne Giles, has created and there is an abundance of information that she knows through her personal research. By increasing our attendance we understand that additional funds will need to be secured for our marketing efforts. Our long term goal is to able to market this program in a way that would reach a broader audience (ie bill boards, television/ radio opportunities).
We consider this program a success because of the amount of people we reach and the diversity of our audience. This fact that it has been a self-sufficient program also attests to its success and we look forward to seeing it grow.
Last year we held six (6) tours and 98 people attend them total - that is an average of 16 people per event. We are happy to offer different routes of Lexington’s East End during each tour. We consider it a successful program because the amount of people we reach and the diversity of our audience.
We encourage our volunteer teachers to write out an agenda, spelling out the activities for each day and goals to be reached from each meeting of the course; it is through this that the children are able to leave each day with the satisfaction of learning or creating something new with each subsequent class. These individual lessons culminate at the end of each course to a final project (i.e. a performance in African drumming, a final journal in creative writing, a final product in sewing, etc). With the final project, the child is not only able to have the satisfaction of an end product after the month of courses, but also given the pride that comes with showing this end product to friends and family.
We mainly gauge the success by the response of the children and their families. We keep track of the children’s attentiveness, attendance of the course, and progression of the class as a whole among other factors. Because the desired outcome of the classes are the more abstract benefits of self-confidence building and creative outlet for the children, this method of watching the classes’ development as a whole gives us the ability to gauge how much the children are taking away through the children’s actions and reactions to both the teacher and material being taught.
Again, with more abstract benefits being the desired outcome, it is hard to substantiate the success of the program with any sort of statistic or data collection method. We look to the happiness and attentiveness of the children during the courses themselves, the development each child goes through with the learning of new lessons and the new skills, abilities, and confidence with which the children walk away from the program possessing. It is these intricacies and outcomes by which we deem our program a success year by year.
This summer, we host our 4th annual Summer Film Series program. The series was designed to be an inter-generational experience and open up conversations between adults and children. We created an opportunity for the older generation to share movies that they fondly remembered with the younger generation. Films ranged from comedies starring Television Hall of Fame comedian Bill Cosby and cinema classics with Academy Award Winner Sidney Poitier.
As for short-term success, the Summer Film Series offers a wonderful opportunity for family and friends to get together and enjoy an educational, entertaining and free activity together. For older generations, it is a chance to reminisce upon the old days of Sunday films at The Lyric, and for younger it is the chance to enjoy the classic movie-going experience with modern amenities. One of The Lyric’s goals is to be an open place of congregation for the community, and this free and inviting afternoon event is a perfect way to welcome our community in.
The long term goals of the Summer Movie Series are highly comparable to that of The Lyric itself – As The Lyric is an institution that uses its unique and diverse history (with special emphasis in African-American culture) to help build and strengthen it and the community’s future. The Summer Film Series looks back upon the history of African American cinema and tracks this history to its profound influence on more modern day film. It is through this exploratory, educational, and enjoyable movie going experience that multiple generations are able to enjoy classic African American film while also observing how it has developed and how film of the modern day has built and flourished upon this storied past.
With the benefits of the program being community outreach and inclusion along with educational purposes and general entertainment, we look to the response of our patrons to gauge success. It is through attendance, comments from guests, and general reactions that we are able to determine the value of our program and its importance to the community.
We have seen a marked increase year by year of attendance to these film showings, with compliments to the programming schedule as well as word of mouth and media interest increasing. It is through this encouragement and enjoyment from our patrons, as well as the diversity of the attending patrons, that we are able to consider the film series a success. This coincides greatly with our mission of celebrating diversity in the community (with special emphasis on African-American culture) as well as our institution being one of community inclusion.
In celebration of Black History Month we host an annual Black History Convocation. We target 5th and 6th graders who attend Fayette County Schools near the facility. We bring in noted guest speakers from the area. Key note speakers have included local historian and University of Kentucky Professor of History Dr. Gerald Smith and Former 1st District Councilwoman Andrea James.
For a field trip activity, this event helps children to celebrate African-American history while it also helps to highlight African-American businessmen and women on a local level each year during Black History Month. This local involvement of professionals helps to make children more aware of the history that is being written every day in their own community. It also helps to educate the children of the history that is still being written around them- with their involvement.
Going along with The Lyric’s mission, this annual event helps to promote, explore and educate students on diversity in the community and the greater bluegrass/state region. For Black History Month, this event highlights African-American businessmen and businesswomen in a variety of professional trades and allows for children to hear their stories and how their diversity and past has affected them throughout their lives. The stories of these professionals helps build self-confidence for children of all cultures and teaches them to overcome adversity to pursue their goals.
The increasing attendance of the program as well as the active involvement with Lexington businessmen and businesswomen, as well as politicians and professionals from other walks are the reference point to which we can show the program’s growth since its inception in 2012. As The Lyric and its influence and growth within the community continues to move forward, our events have followed suit and gained more momentum, allowing us to further both the diversity and size of the groups coming in but also strengthen the quality of programming such as the Black History Convocation.
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499 East High Street, Lexington, KY 40507