Saturday, April 22, 2023, marks the 40th anniversary of the Roger L. Stevens Center opening to the public. In celebration of the performance venue's anniversary, we are taking a look back at its history — thanks to the UNCSA Archives and Digital Forsyth.
Located in the heart of our city, the historic performing arts venue serves as the largest learning laboratory at UNCSA, an economic driver for downtown Winston-Salem and a cultural destination for both residents and visitors. But it hasn't always been the Stevens Center. In fact, the venue has lived quite a few lives.
Originally the Carolina Theatre — a movie theatre — it once had more than 2,000 seats, with two balconies and a grand staircase in the lobby.
The Carolina Theatre opened on Jan. 13, 1929, with Pauline Frederick in “On Trial” plus vaudeville on the stage. It was the largest theatre between Atlanta and Washington, D.C. Various stars graced the theatre’s 40 feet deep and 80 feet-wide stage, including Elvis Presley, who performed in 1956 before his first national hit record.
After multiple changes in ownership, the Carolina Theatre officially closed in 1975. In 1980, the Carolina Theatre was donated to UNCSA by Piedmont Publishing. That same year, construction began on the old Carolina Hotel to transform it into the Stevens Center.
On April 22, 1983, UNCSA celebrated the official opening of the Roger L. Stevens Center. This performance venue honors Broadway producer and leading art figure Roger L. Stevens. The black-tie event included music, dance and drama performances and a dinner for 1,300 guests. It was attended by President and Mrs. Gerald R. Ford, Lady Bird Johnson, Maya Angelou and more.
The completed renovation of the Carolina Theatre into the Stevens Center premiered a redesigned stage and backstage designed to house Broadway-scale live performances of music, theater, dance and opera.
In 2023, the venue begins its multi-phase, comprehensive renovation, which will improve the patron and artistic experience for all the venue’s constituents. The renovation includes critical upgrades to modernize the student learning experience and the completion of necessary roof and building envelope repairs to ensure their functionality.
Get the best news, performance and alumni stories from UNCSA.
SUBSCRIBE TO OUR NEWSLETTERS(OPENS IN NEW TAB)(OPENS IN NEW TAB)
April 24, 2023