The Agora Theatre and Ballroom has gone through various changes since their new partnership with AEG Presents. Michella Dilworth and I talked to Mike Tata, marketing coordinator of the Agora to get a better idea of the changes that were made, what stayed the same and what the future holds for the Agora. You can catch this feature in Cleveland State University's The Vindicator magazine.
With all the Agora has to offer through its new partnership with AEG, it got us thinking: how were decisions made? What was the progress between the renovations? Is the history still a factor? We sat down with Mike Tata, Agora marketing coordinator, to talk about the Agora’s history and all the hard work that went behind the new Agora/AEG partnership.
The Agora has always been a unique venue, and while previously feeling a little dark and slightly damp, each show that’s hosted was put on by passionate employees and hardworking bands climbing their way to the top. Now, with the new AEG partnership, there’s a lighter atmosphere—gorgeous chandeliers gleaming from the ceilings, illuminating the theatre, which is now complete with two back bars, lights lining the railings around the steps scaling down to the general admission pit and the antique–looking columns that lead past the seating up through the balcony, all create a new polished feeling. If you’ve made memories at the Agora before, prepare to make new, glowing ones now.
With the Agora’s legendary past, it would be a shame to wash away all of the beauty that radiated from the walls and floors of the venue, including the Ballroom. “Both Chris [Zitterbart] and I both see the value in the Ballroom. It’s nice to have that secondary stage to… host artists that are building up to something,” Tata said regarding the ballroom’s past. “I completely agree on the Agora end. You know, Bruce Springsteen, U2, The Police, Metallica, the list goes on… all of those acts have started in the Ballroom and now they’re some of the most historical names out there.”
It appears that the Agora has no limitations on what they believe can and will draw a crowd for them. The venue has on occasion gone back to its roots of showing films, much like back in 1913, when it was known as the Metropolitan Theatre. “A few weeks ago, we did an event called ‘Mystery Science Theatre.’ It’s basically a series of crappy movies and they narrate it and make it really funny. It’s a very a niche crowd, but we did that and it nearly sold out here,” Tata said.
It doesn’t stop there as far as screenings are concerned—the venue also hosted a premiere of the Browns’ HBO series, “Hard Knocks” and it unraveled into a wild night. “We had an orange carpet out in our ballroom. Jim Brown and bunch of ex–Browns’ players, all the sports media were here… Swagger, the Browns’ dog, was here and [they all] walked the orange carpet. And then we played the first episode of ‘Hard Knocks’ here on a projector,” Tata said regarding the event.
When it came to renovations, the venue intentionally maintained the historical feel— “almost 80 percent of it,” according to Tata. “The goal with our renovation project was to enhance and not change. Being responsible for the rise of so many legendary artists and bands, it was important to keep that feeling of nostalgia,” he said. “We cleaned it up a bit, but we didn’t physically change it and that was super important.”
Photos by: Antonio DeJesus
While the Agora is on a bright path towards its future, the venue still has an eerie friend that likes to hang around. Attendees of shows have said to have seen a ghost in a yellow raincoat haunting the stage of the Ballroom, on the catwalk next to the stage. Tata, unfortunately, has had no personal experience with the ghost, but did do some paranormal investigations prior to the renovations. “We worked with a team called Black Sheep Paranormal. The leader of the group has been coming to this building for years, and according to her and what she believes, the man in the yellow raincoat is not really [in] a raincoat but more like a gold robe… she believes it’s Alan Freed. I wouldn’t complain with a story like that,” he said.
Also among the mystifying rumors that surround the Agora is the “Marilyn Manson” room. “The Manson room is a room in our basement right underneath the theatre,” Tata explained. “He used to practice and perform here. He used to have a trunk for his belongings and that trunk disappeared, and has yet to be seen… And we’ve been in that room and there’s just a lot of old Peabody’s [venue] stuff is in there, but it’s not as mysterious as the legend has it.”
Tata gushed over how awesome the partnership with AEG has been while talking about which feature of the renovation he’s been most elated by: “We’ll be able to bring comedy shows here, events like ‘Mystery Science Theatre’ are going to be here and more.” He adds, “That includes all the genres of music, too. Primarily, it’s [been] metal and hip–hop and pop–punk for a very long time, but the indie–rock is starting to come in, the singer–songwriter–type stuff. Again, [we’re] not limited to what we’ve been doing, but with AEG we’re able to encompass that.”
While finishing the renovation took some time, Tata didn’t have too many struggles during the venue’s facelift. “Not having an office, we were in a hallway for a very good portion of time. There was a lot of traffic with our event staff coming in and when you’re working on things, you’d get disrupted [by] a lot with people coming in and out. But we knew it was temporary and we got through it,” he said. “This venue just needed a lot of love. The power upgrades were necessary; we didn’t have heating or cooling in here at all… it’s nice that it was addressed and we’ve taken care of that situation.”
All in all, the renovation process with AEG was smooth sailing. There were only a few instances of trouble with booking shows before the venue was ready to go. “The time tables weren’t really certain. We didn’t know how long our renovations were going to take,” Tata said. “We’ll book shows anywhere from a month and a half in advance to eight months give or take—it’s all based on the tours’ needs, so we had five shows booked in February that we had to move to other venues,” he added.
With AEG’s financial backing, it’s making possibilities seem endless when it comes to booking bigger tours. “This year alone, we had Dave Matthews play our venue. To have a name like that in here was incredible. We also had Tool Music Clinic [tour]; the band Tool, they were in here, [when they] both could be playing Blossom,” said Tata. “It’s a matter of who’s touring, if the room makes sense, if the price makes sense—there’s a lot of different factors. The price of tickets are based on how much the artists cost. We’re only a 2,000 cap room, so you can only pay the artist based on what our capacity is.”
As for the Agora’s future, Tata confidently believes that the Agora will be the best venue in Ohio sometime in the next five years. “There’s a lot of people who enjoy what we bring to the table: the shows that we’ve previously brought in this year and are still going to bring… We keep doing what we can do to keep generating money and making this venue even better,” he said. “Whether aesthetically or whatever the case may be [to keep] the ‘swag’ of the Agora much better. I’m very excited to see what we can bring to the table—I genuinely believe what we do next year is going to slaughter what we did this year.”
Be sure to check out the Agora's upcoming events and let us know which ones you're attending.