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Homestead's Historic Seminole Theatre Begins Its Third Life as a Music Venue

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The Seminole Theatre in Homestead has died twice. Once, fire claimed the theater; another time, it was wind. But somehow, some way, it has been revived and will begin its incarnation as a hub for Homestead cultural life.

Built in 1921 for silent movies and live entertainment, it was the centerpiece of downtown Homestead. But in 1940, its structure was charred beyond recognition when a fire that started on the stage consumed the building. There is no record of whether the fire was an accident or arson, but later that year, architect Roy A. Benjamin rebuilt the Seminole Theatre nearly from scratch in a streamline-moderne style. The Seminole Theatre, part two, continued to show movies but also featured wholesome live events such as beauty contests and cooking demonstrations ­— that is, until 1979, when a steep drop in business caused the venue to show its last picture. It sat vacant for more than a decade until the next kill shot:

Hurricane Andrew.

The 1992 storm ripped off the building's roof and tore down its walls. As Homestead rebuilt, the Seminole Theatre Cultural Board formed, hoping to again rebuild a landmark of the city's history. But it wasn't until 2014, when the City of Homestead issued a $5 million bond in hopes of helping to revitalize its historic downtown district, that the Seminole Theatre had the funding to be reborn once again.

"We kept the front façade from 1940, but inside we've created a modern, new lobby, with a 420-seat theater between the orchestra and the balconies," Mickey McGuire, executive director of the Seminole Theatre, explains as he tries to find a quiet place to speak amid the noisy set construction. "We've also expanded the stage and added dressing rooms, an outdoor terrace, and dining area."

McGuire was hired after years of working in the theatrical industry in New York City but looked forward to relocating to a city better known for its proximity to alligators than Broadway. "I wanted to work in a smaller community where I could get to know everyone in the cultural hub."

That Homestead cultural hub all came together December 12, 2015, when the Seminole Theatre held a red-carpet event for its first live performance in 40 years, a night of Broadway singers performing show tunes. This month, the venue is hosting several other events. The Cuban-born, Hialeah-raised Jon Secada took the stage January 15. Bob Marley's old band, the Wailers, will play this Thursday, and R&B veterans the Drifters will doo-wop it up this Sunday.

"We want to bring in well-renowned artists that people normally wouldn't get to see in Homestead. We also want to make it a place where local acts have a chance to play."

Among the South Floridians scheduled to play thus far are jazz singer Nicole Henry, the South Beach Chamber Ensemble, and Combat Hippies, a troupe of military veterans who incorporate spoken word into their shows.

But like any newborn, even one living its third life, the Seminole Theatre is still trying to find its footing. McGuire thinks two large rooms built into the structure could further serve the community. "They could be meeting rooms for local organizations. We're hoping that local schools could have performing arts classes in them. Or maybe one of them could become a black-box theater as a space for smaller shows to play."

Let's hope the third time's a charm.

The Wailers 8 p.m. Thursday, January 21, at the Seminole Theatre, 18 N. Krome Ave., Homestead; 786-650-2073; seminoletheatre.org. Tickets cost $27 to $54 plus fees via eventbrite.com.

The Drifters 7:30 p.m. Sunday, January 24, at the Seminole Theatre. Tickets cost $27 to $50 plus fees via eventbrite.com.

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