09/23/13 — Local, Virginia theaters have the same story

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Local, Virginia theaters have the same story

By Becky Barclay
Published in News on September 23, 2013 1:46 PM

The Paramount Theater in Goldsboro and the Paramount Theatre in Charlottesville, Va., have the same story. They were both thriving movie theaters back in the day, they were both gutted by fire and they were both rebuilt and are now flourishing as performing arts centers.

This is what Ty Cooper found when he was looking for places to take his comedy shows.

The Charlottesville Paramount board member Ty Cooper came upon the Paramount here and did a little research.

"I was astonished at the similarities between my Paramount and the one in Goldsboro," the president of Lifeview Marketing said. "I was drawn to it, almost like a destiny-type of thing.

The Charlottesville theater opened on Thanksgiving eve 1931, showing hundreds of films and hosting war bond drives, fashion shows, rock and roll artists and showing cartoons for children.

But fire shut it down in 1974.

"It was a heartache for the people back then," Cooper said. "They had so much pride in that theater. It was the only theater of that sort in Charlottesville and was in the heart of the city. It was a horrible experience for the people when it burned."

In 1991, the community started a campaign to revive the historical theater, and it was reopened Dec. 15, 2004 as a performing arts center, with many renovations and several additions.

Goldsboro's theater was built in 1882 by Henry and Solomon Weil as an office building and armory. It housed several businesses, but became a theater in the 1920s with vaudeville performances and movies.

It closes in the mid 1980s, but funds were raised to restore it. It reopened in 1991 as a center for the performing arts.

But a fire Feb. 19, 2005, completely destroyed the theater. Funds were raised once again and it was rebuilt and reopened Feb. 15, 2008.

Cooper discovered other similarities in both theaters.

"When it was first built, the Charlottesville Paramount was segregated. Blacks couldn't sit downstairs. Instead, they had to come in at the side of the building."

Cooper said he found that the Goldsboro Paramount had segregation issues, too.

"I wanted to bring my shows to Goldsboro to enhance the community through arts and culture," he said. "Some people think music is the universal language, but even with music sometimes you have segregated listenerships.

"With comedy, you laugh when you think something is funny -- it doesn't matter if you are black, white, Asian, Mexican. If it's funny, it's funny, and when we laugh together, we're not in our own little world anymore."

Cooper said he wants to make a difference culturally.

"Maybe if you come to a show and laugh and you're sitting next to someone different than you and you don't know him, maybe when you see him next week out somewhere, you will talk to him. With comedy, we can bring people together and try to build those bridges."

The first show Cooper is bringing to the Goldsboro Paramount is the United Nations of Comedy Tour Sept. 28. It features three nationally-known comedians. Coco Brown of California is the star of Tyler Perry's TV show "For Better or Worse. David Foster from New York City has been on MTV, YouTube, HBO and P. Diddy's "Bad Boys of Comedy." Funnyman Skiba has been on BET's "Comic View" and co-hosts a radio show out of Washington, D.C.

The show runs about two hours and is for those 18 and older.

Cooper is bringing a second show, "Squeaky Clean," to Goldsboro Oct. 26. It will feature Rich Praytor, who does a lot of Christian comedy shows and received an American Gospel Music award for Best Comedian of the Year. Also appearing in the show will be Grandma G.

"He's actually a man who comes out on stage in a wig and crazy dress like a grandma," Cooper said. "He's been compared to Tyler Perry's Medea."

Cooper would like to bring a show to Goldsboro just about every month.

"The shows promote diversity," he said. "I try to go to cities and find what kind of diversity they have there and also go to events there to see how different cultures interact with each other."

For more information about either of the shows, log onto www.UnitedNationsofComedycom.