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Stage Icon Honors Kelly Strayhorn Theater On Its 100th Anniversary

PITTSBURGH (KDKA) -- Few performers can match the elegance and the grace of Carmen de Lavallede.

Dancer, actor, icon of the stage, she has brought her talents to Pittsburgh as the Kelly Strayhorn Theater in East Liberty celebrates its 100th anniversary.

The 83-year-old performer will take a look back, with a show called "As I Remember It."

"Memories hop all around, you know, you don't stay in one time period when you're remembering things," she says. "You remember things from the past in one second, and you're thinking something now, you remember something tomorrow, yesterday, or whatnot."

Tomorrow looks much better than yesterday for the Kelly Strayhorn Theater. The theater had fallen into disrepair by the late '90s.

But people in the neighborhood said, "We just can't lose this grand old building."

Executive director Janera Solomon says dedicated volunteers helped to restore the luster of the past.

"So many neighborhoods converge here," she says. "You have Highland Park, you have East Liberty, Shadyside, even connecting to Point Breeze, Garfield, Friendship. This is definitely a meeting place, and this theater is important for that."

With an annual budget of $1.2 million, the work never ends. But the director says it pays off each time a visitor walks through the door.

"They look up and they say, 'Wow, it's amazing that we still have a place that still looks and feels like this."

Carmen de Lavallede says local theaters answer a human need.

"Storytelling, singing," she says. "It's part of our nature to do that. It's needed. I think it keeps the balance of the human being."
Carmen de Lavallade will perform at the Kelly Strayhorn Theater Friday and Saturday night.

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