The old Denver Municipal Auditorium, which opened in time to host the 1908 Democratic National Convention, was gutted and transformed a dozen years ago into the Ellie Caulkins Opera House (aka "The Ellie"), named after Denver opera lover Ellie Caulkins, whose husband surprised her by giving $7 million in her honor to the $92 million project. Since then, the 2,225-seat venue and other spaces inside the building have hosted events large and small, including graduations.
Last month, a balloon-bearing family group heading to a celebration of a graduate was having some trouble locating the correct venue in the vast Denver Performing Arts Complex. Fortunately, a Denver 8 crew was shooting in the Galleria. "Where's the Macaulay Culkin theater?" the family asked, referring to the young Home Alone star who'd graduated to more nefarious activities than inspiring theater names.
"It was pretty hilarious," recalls Bobby LeFebre, host of Denver 8's ArtScene. "The more I thought about it, though, I kind of felt bad laughing, because it was evident the family had never been to the DCPA before and they were kind of out of their element."
The Denver Center for the Performing Arts, which anchors the complex, is in the midst of a campaign to expand its audience beyond traditional arts enthusiasts. And the city itself is anticipating a major renovation of the complex, a project known as the Next Stage. It might want to start with some more helpful signage....especially if it wants to keep those dollars coming in from philanthropists.
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Because at the same time one family was searching for a theater dedicated to a former child star, a sign in the Galleria was touting another space in the Ellie, one correctly spelled the Chambers Grant Salon. It was named in honor of Merle Chambers and Hugh Grant.
No, not the aw-shucks English star.
This Hugh Grant is the founding director of the Kirkland Museum; he and Chambers gave a $2 million donation toward the renovation of the space in the basement of the Ellie into a meeting/restaurant space.