Surround sound tribute: Homewood Science Center marks the opening of the Michael Wexler Theater

  Nan Wexler releases a curtain to reveal the sign 
  for the Michael Wexler Theater in the Homewood 
  Science Center. The theater is named for her late 
  son.
(Photos by Eric Crump/H-F Chronicle)
 
When Homewood Science Center Board President Aimee Matthys and Homewood resident Nan Wexler snipped two wires Tuesday night, June 6, black curtains on either side of the science center stage cascaded to the floor and two colorful signs were revealed: "Homewood Science Center" and "Michael Wexler Theater."

The late Michael Wexler would have loved the Homewood Science Center theater that bears his name, according to members of his family who spoke at the theater's dedication.
 
  David Wexler, left, presents 
  a plaque to Homewood 
  Science Center Executive 
  Director Edie Dobrez. The 
  background of the plaque 
  includes artwork by 
  the late Michael Wexler.

 

Science center officials hope the community also is going to love the facility created by Wexler's family and volunteers as a tribute to the artist and actor who was killed in a traffic accident in 2015. 

Nan Wexler said the theater was a perfect memorial to her son, who "not only loved art and theater but loved this town."

The development of the theater was the result of the Wexler family's efforts to raise money, led by Michael's brother, Ron Wexler, and obtain equipment and lend expertise to its design, led by brother David Wexler.

Science center Executive Director Edie Dobrez said everyone in her generation of Homewood-Flossmoor High School students knew Michael Wexler. He was especially well known for his portrayal of George M. Cohan in the musical "George M!"
 

  Ron Wexler gives a tribute 
  to his late brother Michael 
  during the dedication of 
  the Homewood Science 
  Center named in Michael's 
  honor.

 

"I was not involved in theater at H-F, but I did know Michael Wexler. Well, everyone did," Dobrez said before showing clips from several films Michael was in. "Michael loved life and especially loved the arts." 

Ron and David Wexler made a few remarks before the curtains came down.

"He was the harbinger of all things fun. He was a guy everybody wanted to be around," Ron Wexler said. "Having his name associated with a Homewood landmark and in a place where our community is going to come together honors his name and memory in a way greater than any of us could have imagined."

He said there was something especially poignant about placing the tribute to his brother in a place that had once been associated with sadness and farewells. HSC is located in the former Ryan Funeral Home.

"I've been to so many funerals in that room. Now (being there) will be for a fun reason," he said. "It's like a rebirth of that space."

David Wexler explained how contributions from sound and video equipment vendors helped make the theater a reality. David and his wife, Evie, own The Little Guys, a home entertainment business in Mokena.

"I need to thank some of the manufacturers who allowed us to get merchandise at unbelievably reduced prices because of the whole concept, the community being involved, kids having a place to go," David said. 

He credited SVS Sound, Epson, Integra, Liberty AV Solutions and Snap AV for their generosity.

Tom Gunderson of The Little Guys noted that those contributions enabled the creation of a state-of-the-art facility. The system has 11 speakers. two subwoofers and four ceiling speakers.  

"David said we need something over the top," he said. "We designed something way over the top. This is the top of the line for surround technology today. This is what all the theaters are just putting in now."

Gunderson showed two videos to demonstrate the system's features, one music video and one that provide a vivid lesson on the science of sound, "Cymatics," by Nigel Stanford. The video showed the patterns sound waves create when they interact with various materials.

Dobrez added a thank-you to a number of other key volunteers who helped shape the facility, including Ron's daughter, Danyel Ilg, an interior designer who contributed a plan for the room. 

Ron Hofkamp painted the room, and Rich Dehn built the stage.

Matthys said HSC staff and volunteers continue to exceed the board's expectations.

"This is what happens when a community comes together," she said.

Finishing the implementation of Ilg's design is the goal of continuing fundraising efforts for the theater. Acoustic panels are expected cost about $13,000.

HSC staff are still investigating the cost of furnishings for the room.

Following the dedication of the theater, Allison Grant gave a presentation to launch a series of events last week focusing on the science of film. Grant is the assistant curator of education and exhibitions at the Columbia College Museum of Contemporary Photography.

Her talk gave a historical overview of the interplay of technology and perception in art, from medieval painters' progressive attempts to capture realistic images to modern architecture that implements elements of the surreal.

Grant also curated a community photography gallery that was set up along two sides of the theater. About 35 photos were on display and for sale. Grant said more than 300 photos were submitted by local photographers.

Dobrez also thanked La Voute Bistro + Bar, Lassen's, One Trick Pony Brewery and Redbird Cafe for providing food and drink for the dedication event. Because of their help, all the proceeds from the event will go to improving the theater, she said. About $6,500 was raised at the event.
 


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