State of the Art

One of the best days in the past two years was seeing the Cascade Theatre marquee lit up as the Redding icon finally got to host a live event. The pandemic was tough on many, but the Cascade Theatre is also a driving economic force in the community, adding more than $4 million to the North State economy annually. It supports 131 full-time jobs and studies show neighboring businesses see a 60 percent boost on nights when the Cascade is open. More than 10,000 hotel guests annually help city coffers and the bottom line for local businesses when they visit for Cascade shows.

Additionally, more than $200,000 was raised for Carr Fire recovery efforts by Cascade Theatre artists, and more than 15,000 students are introduced to cultural and educational programs through the theatre.

“We do what we do because we love it. It’s not an easy thing being in a business where you are constantly asked to sacrifice your own nights, weekends and holidays,” says Michelle Irvin, general manager of the Jefferson Public Radio-owned theater. “We’re here when everyone else is off having a good time – we ARE their good time. But when you’ve got a full house, an amazing artist on the stage, and everyone is enjoying themselves, it makes it all worthwhile.”

Knowing we can all start enjoying ourselves after the challenging past two years makes the music, plays and other productions run by the Cascade that much sweeter. Perhaps in its absence, we’ve truly come to appreciate what a gem we have with the Cascade Theatre. From its slate of holiday staples to the North State Symphony to world-class musicians like Boz Scaggs, the Cascade Theatre helps make downtown Redding come alive.

First opened in 1935, the Cascade was one of the first air-conditioned buildings in town, and at the time, it was capable of housing more than 20 percent of the town’s population. After falling into disrepair, JPR opened its studios in 1991 and began work to not only revitalize downtown Redding, but the Cascade. Southern Oregon University purchased the building and JPR began a five-year restoration project that succeeded through community-driven fundraising and mutual aid from local businesses as well as state and local government. 

In 2004, the Cascade Theatre reopened and has been the lynchpin of a downtown rebirth. “Our mission is to provide cultural enrichment through our own programming and collaboration with local groups thereby helping to mitigate rural isolation and enhance economic opportunities,” JPR writes.

And it truly has. The Market Street Promenade opened the former mall as businesses and residences have begun to return to a vibrant and growing downtown. And one day, when the vision of downtown Redding meets its glorious reality, the Cascade Theatre will stand out – like it always has – as a beacon for locals and visitors alike.

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