Donations Sought To Restore Old Benson Theater
At the Pizza Shoppe Collective in Benson, the room is normally filled with music and the arts, but back in the 1920s, it was the place next door people went to for that sort of thing.
“This is a bit of the original architecture,” explained Amy Ryan as she showed Channel 6 around the building. Now the theater is nearly 90 years old. “This is the original stage and it’s a vaudeville stage, so it’s very narrow,” said Ryan as she shined the flashlight in front of her.
The building was re-purposed after the 1950s. There are still a few reminders of the past hidden in the darkness of the empty building. In fact, most people walk right by, not even realizing it was once a theater, but not Ryan.
“I knew what kind of treasure was hidden inside. I’ve been here a long time. Back in ’95 when I got here this street would have been empty by now, so I had a lot of time to study it.”
Ryan owns the Pizza Shoppe and is leading the charge to restore the old theater. It will cost more than $1 million, but fostering the arts is something that is important to the neighborhood.
City leadership agrees. “Ideas like this have a lot of merit and should be brought along and made to reality,” said Omaha Mayor Jim Suttle. He’s seen other neighborhoods already taking the approach that Benson has to revitalize their own areas.
“There just haven’t been enough venues in Omaha and it’s nice to see them open up something like that,” said Donna Molacek, who’s worked in Benson for years.
Donations are in the spotlight for now, until the money can be raised to restore and open the theater. Ryan says it would not only revitalize some of the history in Benson, but it would truly be an asset to the community in a number of ways.
“The money that is made in this theater when it’s running and operating will actually be donated to the Benson Improvement District. So that that money becomes a slush pool for all those in need in the Benson community.”