Virginia Theatre celebrates centennial with Kara
Monday, 7 June 2021
lavirginia1The 100-year-old theatre will see action again from August
USA - Almost every touring band in the last 50 years has passed through the heartland university town of Champaign, Illinois, situated midway between Indianapolis and Peoria. Many of them have performed at the Virginia Theatre, the town’s vintage venue that turns 100 years old this year.
The Virginia recently got an appropriate birthday gift in the form of an L-Acoustics Kara II sound system, designed by Threshold Acoustics, purchased through L-Acoustics certified provider distributor Mid-America Sound, and installed by Knox-Array Event Production.
Steadily renovated over the past 20 years by nearly $10m in state grants, private contributions, commercial sponsorships, and large donations, the venue now sports completely updated power, infrastructure, and trim that extends to its ornate plaster and the classic 700-pipe Wurlitzer organ originally installed in 1921 to live-score silent movies. Reopening this summer, following the pandemic downtime, the Virginia Theatre will soon be silent no more.
“It was big undertaking,” says Stephen White, technical manager at the theatre, which is now landmarked and operated by the Champaign Park District. “It wasn’t just putting in racks and stacks but also infrastructure like a new catwalk and bringing the house power up to date with new conduit, cabling, and even a K-rated transformer, which gives us incredibly clean, quiet power. We had had to add more steel and I-beams to make everything work, but that’s because the sound system is really the centrepiece of it all for a music venue like this.”
The theatre now has 20 L-Acoustics Kara II line source array enclosures, flown 10 per side, with four SB28 subs stacked in the orchestra pit. The coverage is extended by two X12 coaxial speakers per side, wall-mounted far left and right under the PA hangs, keeping the first three rows of seats on either side of the fan-shaped 1,463-seat auditorium well-covered.
A dozen short-throw X8 enclosures are used as fills - eight across the front of the stage and four more to fill in areas under the theatre’s dome - while eight compact 5XT are used to cover the under-balcony seating. Everything is powered and processed by one LA12X and eight LA4X amplified controllers.
“The back corners of the balcony were always the ‘problem children’ of the house; it was impossible to get clean sound in there consistently,” White says. “The L-Acoustics fill speakers, which are now covering the last six rows up there, have solved that problem for good. With all the decorative plaster and the odd seating shape, it was a tough room to conquer, but Threshold Acoustics and L-Acoustics did it.”
The new Kara II system will soon be used for everything from the legacy rock shows the venue specialses in to performances by the Champaign-Urbana Theatre Company, which appeared at the theatre from 1992 to 2019 and is slated to start up again once the Covid restrictions that have kept the venue dark since last year are lifted and shows resume in August.
“This is a true community theatre, and it hosts a wide variety of shows and events, as well as music and spoken word performances,” says White. “The Kara II will cover all of that, with power and clarity.”

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