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Roanoke Rapids Gets a Boost in the Arts

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ROANOKE RAPIDS — The Halifax County Arts Council is preparing to transform a dilapidated movie theater into a cultural arts center.

The People's theater was once the jewel of downtown Roanoke Rapids. Just ask Evora Wilson who managed the theater with her husband for nearly 50 years.

"We've had Roy Rogers, Gene Autry and June Crawford brought his organ on stage at the people's theater," Wilson said.

The theater is showing signs of wear after being shut up since 1981.

"Now, we want to bring it back so they can have their live performances, their music, art, drums, whatever, and most of it will be free of charge or a very nominal fee," Halifax County Arts Council member Constance Broadwell said. "There's nothing like this in Roanoke Rapids."

A few months ago, the owners of the People's theater decided to give it to the county arts council. Supporters are planning to turn the old building into a central location for local artists.

Besides the extra space, supporters said that the renovations will do wonders for this part of Roanoke Rapids.

Many children who live in the area are in part of a summer drama program that has not had a place to call its own, until now.

"It would break my heart to have anything else done in that theater except something connected with the arts, because that's been a love of ours through the years," Wilson said.

The work will be difficult, but supporters said that bringing this old building back to life will re-awaken the arts for generations to come.

Roanoke Rapids is not alone in its efforts to rejuvenate the arts. Volunteers in the city of Wilson recently transformed a downtown theater into a cultural arts center as well. Reporter / Photographer:Brian Bowman