ROBERT D. MANAHAN
Robert D. Manahan is one of the Illinois Valley's most prolific directors of musical theatre. His educational credentials include a bachelor's degree in music education and a master's degree in vocal performance from Illinois Wesleyan University, with further study in drama at Northwestern. Bob taught vocal music and English from 1960-1993 at L-P High School and later came out of retirement to start the Musical Theater Department at Hall High School in 1999. While teaching at L-P, he founded Summer Stage Playhouse (1963), the success of which inspired the Illinois Arts Alliance Award.
In 1996, when Stage 212 acquired the new building at 700 First Street , in LaSalle, a significant endowment from "Mister M" enabled the orginization to transform a twin-cinema into a performance venue. To recognize this contribution and all of his contributions to theater in the Illinois Valley for more than four decades, Stage 212 dedicated the facility as "The Robert D. Manahan Center for the Performing Arts."
The jewelry business of brothers Edward and Henry Zimmerman opened in LaSalle in 1884. It so prospered, they decided in 1889 to build an opera house on this corner of Marquette and First, which would also provide a desirable corner location for their jewelry story to be located in the west side of the building. During the theater season, the store was used as the daytime box office of the Zimmerman Opera House.
The auditorium had a seating capacity of over 1200. A veranda paralleled the front of the opera house on the second floor, and prior to a performance, the actors would put in an appearance on the veranda, joined by the opera house band playing in the front of the building.
It was billed as the “best playhouse west of Chicago” producing “Alexander’s Rag Time Band”, “Way Down East”, “Nelly Bly”, “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” and many others.
In the mid-twentieth century, the opera house was converted into a furniture store. In the late 1960’s, the building was demolished to make way for a 2-screen movie theater in front and a multi-story municipal parking garage in back. The upper stories of the garage were subsequently torn down; leaving the parking lot that currently exists.
The movie theater went through several ownerships before the building was sold to Stage 212 in 1996 and, after remodeling, became our performance venue the following year.
A BREIF HISTORY OF 700 FIRST STREET