By April Richey
The Ga-Ana Theater in Georgiana is set to re-open as the Georgiana Opry House.
Tracy Eason of Georgiana, a retired nurse, as well as a musician, was searching for a way to bring the arts back into Georgiana, especially for children and seniors. Country music has been a long time staple in the small town.
The theater is located just around the corner from the boyhood home of country legend Hank Williams Sr. When the theater originally opened in 1939, Hank Sr. was among many country and gospel acts to take the stage.
“I played on stage at the theater in 2001 and loved the ambience,” said Eason. “I remember J.C. Sims sitting in front of the theater daily on his golf cart. J.C. rescued the theater from demolition, and I began to imagine if we could bring his dream to life again, his legacy would continue.
She added, “The path from the imagination to reality of actually owning the theater was crazy. I knew that I couldn’t do it alone, but who wouldn’t think I was just plain crazy?
“A casual phone conversation with my longtime musician friend, Artie Hopkins, uncovered someone else who could see my vision. From there God brought all of us together,” noted Eason.
She stated, “We are committed to utilizing the building for our community and keeping God first in all of our projects.”
Keith Hall, a small business man in the environmental industry in Foley, but who’s family is from Georgiana said, “I recognize opportunities when they arise. I feel truly blessed to be involved with my new business partners, two of which are real musicians, in this endeavor.”
Matt and his wife Vicki Waters, from Robertsdale, married in 1984 and started attending the
Hank Williams Festivals shortly after. Vicki stated, “We look forward to being a part of the Opry House and bringing entertainment along with any visitors to Georgiana in the years to come if the good Lord’s willing and the creek don’t rise. We love country music and love the small town of Georgiana.”
Shasta Hopkins of SilverHill, added, “Artie and I both have the same vision as everyone else, with great country and gospel shows along with other community events. Artie has been playing music and performing most of this life. We both have a love for country music. I would like the theater to be a place for families to come together and enjoy some great entertainment.”
A soft opening is planned for late summer offering a few live shows featuring traditional country, gospel, and bluegrass artists. By early fall, they hope to open the building to be used by the community for church conventions, plays, weddings, recitals, beauty pageants and more.
Cost for theater rental is under discussion, but the plan is to keep it an affordable venue. The screen is still in great shape, so some of the conversations have mentioned using the screen to host matinees sometime down the road.
This would provide a wonderful yet affordable outing with the family on Saturday afternoons. Also, in the planning stages for the first year is to open the theater for daily visitors, with a looping film documenting the history of the theater.
There is also discussion of offering visitors the opportunity to record themselves singing and playing their favorite instrument, while standing on the star that marks the spot that Hank Williams, Sr. stood while performing on that very stage in November of 1939.
While the stage needs a little more TLC, the new owners will be preserving all of the autographs that adorn the theater. Work is near completion on the roof and plumbing.
Issues will always arise when you are working on remodeling a building that is nearly 100 years old, but there is no doubt with an amazing group of owners and a vision of what can be, the old Ga-ana Theater will be reborn as the Georgiana Opry House, and the sound of music will once again fill the streets of the quiet little town of Georgiana.
You will have to hang on a little longer for the official announcement of the Grand Opening, but keep in mind; Hank’s birthday is in September. Maybe, just maybe, the grand opening will include a street dance in front of the theater just like the good ole days! We can only hope!
Matt stated, “I think all of our expectations are high but really don’t believe that it has sunk into our heads where we could take this thing or what a blessing we could be for Georgiana and the surrounding community.
“I believe that our commitment to the Georgiana Opry House will prove fruitful for the community and the state of Alabama,” Keith added.
The long term business plan is vast and hopes to bring the historic preservation that the downtown area deserves to light. The owners have already been approached by larger companies like the Montgomery Ballet, and smaller local fundraiser organizations like Helping Hearts.
Both bring large numbers to any event they host, so this could only help the growth that is needed in this area. Not only as revenue for the theater, but also for surrounding businesses.
For more information on the Georgiana Opry House, you can visit their Facebook page www.facebook.com/Georgiana-Opry-House while the new website is still under construction.
New Owners of the Georgiana Opry House are Tracy Eason, Artie and Shasta Hopkins, Matt and Vicki Waters, and Keith Hall.