One of the last art deco movie theaters built pre-WWII, the Kessler Theater in North Oak Cliff has a storied past -- to say the least.
He has turned the old theater on W. Davis Street into a mix-use cornucopia of all things community, art and music.
“Monday, Tuesday, and Wednesday we run about 200 children through here teaching anything from: tap, ballet, jazz, voice, piano, guitar lessons and acting. Then on Thursday, Friday and Saturday the professionals come in and we have live music. We have art, poetry and then Sunday we give back to the community when non-profits can rent out the place."
Suffice to say the Kessler has it going on, and by “it” we mean a lot.
“It's a creative agora and a civic center that's premised on creativity,” according to current Artistic Director Jeff Liles (formerly of Decadent Dub Team).
Both Liles and Cabaniss are passionate about breathing new life in the live music scene.
"Typically Dallas audiences aren't particularly respectful of the artist on stage. They aren’t even paying attention. But here, they walk into this room… get away from the bar and it's a totally different headspace. They go in there and sit down and give the artist their undivided attention, which you don't see in other clubs,” Liles explained.
Fantastic acoustics coupled with former Decadent Dub Team collaborator Paul Quigg’s experience as a producer/recording engineer make it hard not to focus solely on the main stage once inside the soundproof theater.
It’s a feature musicians have noticed.
"Even though this venue is historic and beautiful it's first class and its equipment is wonderful and it's really cutting edge,” musician Geno Young said before he took the stage.
The Kessler Theater is a “can’t miss” destination in the area of North Oak Cliff affectionately dubbed “X +” by residents. If you haven’t yet visited, the "X" is the intersection where Kings Highway crosses Davis Street, and the "+" is the adjacent intersection where Tyler Street crosses Seventh.
The outer shell of The Kessler is a visual reminder of its history. Conversely, its newly renovated interior is the backdrop for new, live entertainment.
Ironically, the Kessler is merely doing what it used to do back in the day.
"Dewey Groom and the Texas playboys used to play what was called the Hay Loft series here back in the forties --and it was a live music venue! They would get up and play in between movie matinees and play their form of Texas swing music. I find it ironic that here we are 50 years later still doing some of the same programming that they did 50 years ago -- and it works,” Cabaniss said.