The Apollo Theater is celebrating its 80th anniversary this year, but while the venue has a storied past, it also have a vibrant future. This weekend they opened their doors to let visitors catch a glimpse of the magic inside. Tara Lynn Wagner filed the following report.
Over the years the Apollo Theater has played host to some of the hottest tickets in town, but this weekend, no tickets were required.
“It is our gift every year, we open the doors to the theater and we invite the people in and provide them with a day's worth of fantastic entertainment,” said Apollo Programming Director Jamilla Deria.
The fifth annual Open House included workshops, educational events and concerts, a thorough introduction for those who've never visited the legendary venue.
“We've never been there, we've heard, we've seen it on TV, and it was a great opportunity to just bring the family along, bring my daughter and expose her to that sort of culture,” said one attendee.
"I like the Motown,” said one young attendee.
But the open house isn't just about entertaining. It's a chance to let history take center stage, 80 years worth of history that spans from jazz to hip hop and beyond.
Ella fitzgerald was discovered here at 15. Sarah Vaughn was discovered here,” said Deria.
“James Brown or Michael Jackson or Gladys Knight. These are legends who people did not know their names until they were discovered here on the amateur night stage,” said Community Programs Manager Adé Williams.
With a track record like that, it's no wonder Amateur night still sells out week after week and tourists flock to take photos of the walk of fame.
The theater isn't just important to the music community, but the local community as well with those who live in the neighborhood calling it a cornerstone.
“It's sort of living history, it’s a physical history of black entertainers in the United States and that's really important,” said one New Yorker.
“Just the historical aspect of it is very important because this is like a landmark,” said another.
“Just all the history behind the Apollo really makes you want to come, and you feel it when you're in the building, it’s great,” said a third.
Now a non-profit performing arts venue, the lineup has changed to incorporate all types of performance like dance and theater, but music remains at the core. Arrive at 125th street with a lot of talent and a little luck and there's no telling where life will take you.
“This is a theater that has shown if you give people a fair chance and you let them shine, they will just blow your socks off,” said Williams.
For more information, go to www.apollotheater.org.