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Historic McSwain Theatre to celebrate centennial July 18

ADA, Okla. – For 100 years, the McSwain Theatre in downtown Ada has offered a compelling variety of entertainment. As part of its centennial celebration, the McSwain will offer a virtual show online and over the airwaves at 7 p.m., Saturday, July 18.

To view the show from the comfort of your own home on your computer or smart device, go to www.McSwainTheatre.com or visit the McSwain Theatre Facebook page at Facebook.com/McSwainTheatre.

Chickasaw community radio KCNP will also be broadcasting the centennial performance. In the Ada area, tune to 89.5 FM. In the Dickson/Ardmore areas 89.3 FM, in the Tishomingo area on 97.3 FM and worldwide at KCNP.org.

The show will feature a message from Governor Bill Anoatubby, songs from Jae L. & Crossover, musical guests and special appearances by notable celebrities.

Country artist Marty Haggard said the McSwain Theatre ranked among the top venues he has visited.

“Who would have ever thought that Ada, Oklahoma would have the best theatre in the world,” he said. “I’ve never been to a venue where top-to-bottom, every link in that chain was strong. It’s a beautiful building, perfect for the entertainer on stage and perfect for the person out front.”

Vaudeville acts, silent films, major motion pictures and live musical performances have helped make the theater a staple of downtown Ada.

The McSwain Theatre is a safe place to come and feel happy, reminisce, and enjoy fellowship, according to singer, performer and lifetime Ada resident Jae L. Stilwell. Ms. Stilwell works at the McSwain both behind the scenes and on the stage.

Thanks to advocates like Foster McSwain, Paul Alford, Ms. Stilwell and Gov. Anoatubby, the McSwain Theatre continues to serve as a family-friendly social entertainment destination with a focus on the community and local artists.

A Look Back

Foster McSwain built the McSwain in 1920. Mr. McSwain and his family lived on the third floor. He decided to make a career out of theater after seeing his first motion picture, which at the time had no color or sound.

Foster chose “Suds,” starring Mary Pickford, as his first silent film premiere at the new theater July 19, 1920. Tickets cost 15 cents for adults and a dime for children.

In 1929, the McSwain’s first “talkie” picture, “The Canary Murder Case,” was screened.

The first renovation of the theater was in 1936. New seats, a balcony, a new mezzanine floor and a new air conditioning system were added.

Roy Rogers attended the world premiere of “Home in Oklahoma,” a film in which he starred, at the McSwain in 1946.

The McSwain Theatre continued to be a movie destination through the 1950s, ‘60s and ‘70s. Moviegoers were still lining up to see movies like “Psycho,” “The Godfather,” “Jaws” and “Star Wars,” near the end of the theatre’s movie run.

After multiscreen theaters opened across town, Main Street lost some of its allure. The McSwain closed its doors in 1988.

Paul Alford, Ms. Stilwell’s uncle, renovated the McSwain in 1992. This is when the stage became a place for live musical performances, thanks to Mr. Alford’s appreciation of Branson-style shows.

The theatre hosted a show every other weekend then. The first live onstage show premiered with a Country Western band, dubbed the McSwingers. Ms. Stilwell was lead vocalist.

Ada native and country star Blake Shelton was a regular performer from 1992 through 1994. After high school graduation, he moved on to Nashville to begin his country music career.

As a music destination, the McSwain also brought in the likes of Dale Evans, Patti Page, Neal McCoy, Ray Price and The Osmond Brothers, among others.

In 2002, the Chickasaw Nation purchased the theater and began extensive renovations. The building next door was purchased to facilitate an expansion.

A primary goal was to upgrade and restore the original ornate look of the 1920s theater. The stage was expanded, the seats recovered and professional-style dressing rooms and storage were added.

State-of-the-art sound and lighting systems were incorporated and modern amenities were added, including an elevator. The second story was redesigned to house receptions, meetings and other events. The third floor became staff offices.

The McSwain Theatre reopened in summer 2009. The only part of the facility not to be enhanced, Ms. Stilwell said, were the walls, and even those received a coat of fresh paint.

The Honkytonk Tailgate Party, featuring country music artists Mark Wills, Jeff Bates and Trent Willmon served as the first show after reopening Saturday, July 25, 2009. The group enjoyed a packed house.

Today’s McSwain Theatre

The McSwain Theatre, 130 W. Main St., is one of Oklahoma’s premiere live entertainment venues. Its concerts, shows, movies, plays and special events are all planned to offer a family-friendly experience.

Each month, Ms. Stilwell and the band Crossover host a variety show, often featuring up-and-coming local artists.

Every other year, over the span of multiple months, the Grand Awards Show shines a spotlight on talent in and around south-central Oklahoma.

Entertainers like country music star Mr. Shelton and young ventriloquist Darci Lynne, winner of NBC’s “America’s Got Talent,” frequented the McSwain Theatre stage early in their careers. Movie stars Dale Robertson, Peter Brown and Gabby Hayes are among the celebrities who visited for special events.

Concerts are offered at the McSwain throughout the year. Talent comes in from all over, covering musical genres like country, rock, gospel, oldies, tributes and more.

The McSwain hosts year-round family film showings featuring a different movie each Thursday. In the summer when children have a break from school, the Children’s Summer Movie Series offers a cool and comfortable escape.

Theatrical plays for children are also a staple of the McSwain, with schools often busing in children for entertainment.

For more information, contact the McSwain Theatre at (580) 332-8108 or visit McSwainTheatre.com. Follow theater updates on Facebook at Facebook.com/McSwainTheatre, on Instagram at Instagram.com/McSwainTheatre or on Twitter at Twitter.com/McSwainTheatre.