LOS ANGELES, CA – 07/17/2017 (PRESS RELEASE JET) — Mr. Hillsman Lee Wright was honored at the closing reception of the Annual Conference of the Theatre Historical Society of America on June 30, 2017. Wright received the Creating Theatre History Award, which recognizes an individual or group that has contributed to society in a manner that exemplifies excellence in preserving theatres and their history.
Wright’s 40-year association with historic theatres began in 1975 at the Carnegie Hall and Bleecker Street Cinemas in NYC. Over the next 40 years, his career continued at the Memphis Orpheum, Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, and League of Historic American Theatres; and touched dozens of theatres in communities, towns, and cities in California and across the United States. His achievements exemplify the high standards expected of a recipient of this award. Wright has inspired hundreds to activism while educating untold numbers in the importance and benefits of historic theatre preservation, re-activation and restoration.
Volunteer, board member, patron, donor, service provider, staff member or maverick historic theatre activist; whatever his role, each was informed by his distinctive personal style, humor and persistence. At the heart of his service is voluntarism. Most of his service to the field has been as a volunteer. His activism and advocacy span local, state, regional, national and international spheres. Serving as board member officer for Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, which he co-founded in 1988, League of Historic American Theatres, Hollywood Heritage, West Hollywood Preservation Alliance, Friends of the Fairfax, Fox Inglewood Alliance and numerous arts, community and service organizations is indicative of dedication.
In 1987, the Los Angeles area had dozens of historic theatres, many in continuous operation as single screen movie houses, a few featured live performances, some were vacant and others adaptively re-used. It was, and is, an embarrassment of riches. Nowhere is this more apparent than in downtown L.A., with its 18 historic theatres clustered on or within a few blocks of Broadway. In 1987, three of these downtown theatres closed – more than at any time since the Great Depression.
Wright identified the need for a specialized non-profit organization to address the unique challenges and opportunities involved in historic theatre preservation. Wright and theatre historian John Miller co-founded the Los Angeles Historic Theatre Foundation, dedicated to protecting, preserving, restoring and sustaining the operation of Southern California’s historic theatres. Wright was a guiding light and driving force behind the grassroots volunteer-powered LAHTF, which quickly became influential in the regional and national theatre preservation movement.
Through LAHTF, Wright became an effective voice for education and organization, rallying people in neighborhoods, communities, towns and cities interested in saving “their” historic theatre. The Alex in Glendale, Fairfax, Fox Inglewood, El Portal, Hollywood Warner, El Capitan, TCL Chinese Theatre, Egyptian, Fox Fullerton, Globe (Morosco), Belasco, Mayan, United Artists (Theatre at Ace Hotel), Golden Gate, Warner Huntington Park, Warner Grand San Pedro, and others benefitted directly from Wright’s involvement. The Fox Bakersfield, Hanford Fox, Sacramento Crest, Balboa, North Park and California Theatres in San Diego, Carolina Durham, Provincetown Rep, and other theatre preservation projects outside of L.A. have also been touched by Wright’s expertise and advocacy.
“My career in historic theatre preservation began in 1975 in the basement of Carnegie Hall, with a stop at the Memphis Orpheum, and continues today in L.A.’s Hollywood and Broadway Historic Theatre Districts. Fate or good fortune has smiled on me. I’m grateful for the many people who have joined with me over the years to help save these irreplaceable treasures. Historic theatres are repositories of memory and meaning. I look forward to new challenges and victories ahead in the world of historic theatre preservation” (Hillsman Wright, July, 2017)
About The Theatre Historical Society of America:Founded in 1969 as a non-profit organization dedicated to celebrating the rich history of America’s historic theatres, the Theatre Historical Society of America (THS) exists today as a common ground for all who value the role of these historic structures in our architectural, cultural and social and history. Through preservation of the collections in the American Theatre Architecture Archive and our educational programming, including our flagship publication Marquee™ and Conclave Theatre Tour, THS increases awareness, appreciation and scholarly study of America’s theatres. Visit THS online at historictheatres.org.
For more information about this topic, or to schedule an interview, please contact Donna McCoy, Membership & Communications Manager at 1-877-242-9637 ext. 305 or [email protected].
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