Northshore Magazine

Northshore April 2020

Northshore magazine showcases the best that the North Shore of Boston, MA has to offer.

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97 spread its magic and purchased the Larcom eatre less than a half-mile away located on Wallis Street. Again, they engaged in a top-to-bottom restoration project, which took just over a year. On October 16, 1985 (Pelaez's birthday), a second show premiered, with new tricks and choreography. Now, Beverly had the distinction of two magic shows running concurrently, which surely must be a record since the vaudeville era. In May 2012, the final curtain descended on the magic show, after the death of Peleaz earlier that year. e company stopped performances, and e Cabot faced a doubtful future. e theatre was put up for sale. Developers and other business owners came to check out the property. Rich Marino remembers that he worried about the loss of this historic treasure to development. His Chianti Jazz Club is across the street, and he watched with binoculars as real estate agents gathered prospective buyers for tours. "It was a gift for the city and left to us, and I felt it was our job to be stewards and pass it on to another generation," he nostalgically told me. And this, from someone who went on his first date with his wife at the Cabot. A group of citizens, hastily brought together by city councilor Scott Houseman, emerged as the "Founders" with the tasks of preservation foremost on their minds—for once this place was indeed a palace. In 2014 entrepreneur/philanthropist Henry Bertolon stepped up and purchased the Cabot for $1.2 million. But he soon discovered that the theatre first had to add value to downtown. At this point, the theatre was repurposed as a nonprofit and renamed the Cabot Performing Arts Center. e plan was to show movies and offer live entertainment on stage. But that was a reach, as the aging building required a state- of-the-art sound system and other upgrades. e task of restoration was formidable. e Founders approached Beverly architect addeus Siemasko, a partner of SV Design, for a quick evaluation. He was happy to give an hour or two of his time. And that was all it took for nostalgia to work its own magic. Siemasko has been pivotal in the restoration, donating his time pro bono for over five years. He is now vice chairman of the Board of Directors. As the building needed a lot of work to get it up to code, Siemasko devised an incremental approach using multiple phases over several years. e primary concerns were health and safety, which required the installation of fire alarm and sprinkler systems, electrical services, and a reinforced roof. Next was patron comfort, which entailed the installation of 850 brand-new seats, a new heating and air-conditioning system, hand rails, and handicapped accessibility. Also on the list were improved functionality and aesthetics. Box seats in the balcony were reopened, and a multipurpose platform was installed in the rear main floor. Installation of new lighting and a $90,000 digital projection system followed. And the renovations continue, made possible by creative fundraising, a Cabot Club for memberships, and generous donations. For years, speculation circulated about what was above the faux drop ceiling in the lobby. Recently, that mystery of at least 60 years was solved. Tiles have been peeled back revealing a once-grand entrance, complete with a Palladian window, Beaux Arts cornices, and the original chandelier. At some point during a past renovation an effort was made to preserve small poster boxes notched into the walls. On being opened, posters from a bygone era were revealed. "We just want the doors to be swinging open and closed and being used in all ways that can be imagined," Siemasko says. "If those doors are swinging and the hinges get worn out, our vision is that we'd like to replace the hinges because we know the place is being used by the community." Since 2015, executive director Casey Soward has managed e Cabot, ever mindful of the trust placed in him while it is under his watch. He sees their mission as twofold: to preserve and restore a beautiful building and to support the arts in the community. "We're growing a brand-new arts organization," he says, "that presents everything from films to children's programming to classical music to a variety of visual content, and comedy and popular artists. It's the confluence of those two things that is our mission at e Cabot." e theatre is an entertainment destination in the downtown's newly established Beverly Arts District. Already, $4 million has been invested in the restoration, with $750,000 earmarked to upgrade the lobby. Special events help in growing funds and unifying the community in a common interest. A full- time digital marketing manager uses social media to keep the buzz going among various demographics. Soward said his marriage vows and had his wedding reception here, and he foresees another venue for the theatre. Everywhere the effect of the arts on local economies has been an underleveraged asset. But e Cabot story is supported by facts. Soward consulted studies from the group Americans for the Arts. "We estimate our economic impact on the region and on Beverly to be about $7 million in 2019," he says. Chairman of the Board of Directors Stephen Immerman, a former president of the Montserrat College of Art, concurs. "e bulk of the money for admission for the live performances goes directly to the artist. So we're also supporting the artists and the artist's work." When asked once what was his magic show's secret, Cesareo Pelaez offered one word: togetherness. "I think he was creating not only a theatrical ensemble," Bull says, "but creating a family." at too is a form of magic, which today, still permeates the vibe at the beloved Cabot. PHOTOGRAPH BY JOEL LAINO THAT PRESENTS EVERYTHING FROM FILMS TO CHILDREN'S PROGRAMMING TO CLASSICAL MUSIC TO A VARIETY OF VISUAL CONTENT, AND STAND-UP COMEDY AND POPULAR ARTISTS. IT'S THE CONFLUENCE OF THOSE TWO THINGS THAT IS OUR MISSION AT THE CABOT." —The Cabot executive director Casey Soward

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