West Chester’s new theater gets named

The performing arts finally have a place to call home in West Chester, and now, that home has a name.

Chris and Beth Knauer

Chris and Beth Knauer

Thanks to a generous contribution from Chris and Beth Knauer, Uptown! Entertainment Alliance’s new theater will be named The Knauer Theater for the Performing Arts in honor of Chris Knauer’s grandmother Lena and his parents, David and Nancy Knauer, who all loved West Chester, music and the arts, according to an Uptown press release.

The four founders of Uptown! Entertainment Alliance started this project in 2010 for a simple reason: they loved West Chester and thought that it was an almost a perfect town. The three missing ingredients, in their opinion, were a theater, a train station, and waterfront property. After six years of hard work, the naming of the theater comes just three months before Uptown’s already sold-out New Year’s Eve Grand Opening Gala: “The Celebration of the Century” on Dec. 31.

Chris Lang, an Uptown! board member, feels “that it is an affirmation of the vision of the people who launched this endeavor to meet this need in our community” and that “the fulfillment of this dream is truly exciting”.

Chris Knauer’s grandmother, Laura Ellena Knauer, affectionately called “Aunt Lena,” performed over 100 monologues songs, skits and poems and became well known in Chester County for playing the musical saw as well as for playing the piano for silent movies. Her talent for playing the saw launched her career into media she never expected - radio and subsequently television. She appeared on programs such as the “Mike Douglas Show” in a duet with Liberace on the piano and stumped the panel on "What’s My Line" starring Soupy Sales. She entertained thousands of people over her 40-year career in many places, including St. Peter’s Village while dressed in Victorian attire while playing the saw and sharing stories.

Nancy and David Knauer

Nancy and David Knauer

David and Nancy Knauer shared a love of music throughout their lives. Both natives of West Chester, they were well-known for being charitable and continuously supporting the arts. David Knauer, a successful commercial real estate developer and builder in Chester County, was a veteran who played saxophone and clarinet in the U.S. Army. He was also heavily involved in the community through numerous projects and a generous benefactor and trustee of the Chester County Hospital. Nancy Knauer continues to attend the Criterion’s concerts at West Chester University, where she graduated in the 1940s.

Chris and Beth Knauer are continuing in that tradition, instilling a love of music and the arts in their children and in their support for the community and the arts. Richard May, Uptown! board member and treasurer said that “with the Knauer family name on the theater, the arts will continue to live on as part of the fabric of the community.”

Uptown! will open The Knauer Theater for the Performing Arts this New Year’s Eve and will officially be operating as a performing arts venue in 2017. The new theater will boast six resident companies that will cater to theater, live music, modern dance, film, comedy, and educational opportunities for children and adults.

 

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