Oak Cliff’s Kessler Theater is Back. Now What?
Edwin Cabaniss and Jeffrey Liles have big plans for the Davis Street venue.
by Peter SimekPublished 5.19.2010 From D Magazine JUN 2010
The opportunity for Liles came when Edwin Cabaniss approached him about being the artistic director for his new multiuse redo of the historic Kessler Theater on Davis Street, in Oak Cliff. Left vacant for decades, the theater had once been owned by country legend Gene Autry and had been hit hard by a tornado in 1957. Cabaniss was turning it into a kind of neighborhood civic center, hosting dance and music classes, office space, a bar, a gallery, room for corporate events, and two stages: an intimate setup in the front bar area and a bigger stage in the Kessler’s main space that could accommodate about 400 people. More important, by combining all of these uses, Cabaniss created a music venue that didn’t rely on ticket and alcohol sales to keep the doors open. The investor dreamed of a music venue that appealed to older audiences, a rock club sans sweat and vomit, where corporate suits and street kids could rub shoulders, and you could watch a show from a luxury box-like balcony space. Cabaniss spoke of places like Largo and the Knitting Factory in New York. Liles had found the venue he believed the Dallas scene needed.