The Keswick Theatre originally opened its doors Christmas Day 1928. The 1,300-seat Glenside venue will kick off a year’s worth of special performances, beginning Friday night with Hooters drummer David Uosikkinen’s multi-genre solo project, In the Pocket.
The yearlong celebration, which will also include a date with the Philadelphia Orchestra, is meant to show off the Keswick’s range as a venue, something that is built in to the very fabric of its architecture, courtesy of designer Horace Trumbauer, the man behind the Philadelphia Museum of Art and the Free Library of Philadelphia’s main branch. “Trumbauer’s head architect didn’t stick to one look, he used four different architectural designs intertwined when they built the Keswick,” said Keswick general manager Judith Herbst.
The Keswick was initially crafted along a rail line to lure Philadelphians from the city, as were many suburban vaudeville theaters built during that time period. The Keswick also served Glenside well by hosting community events from family religious services to Police Athletic League events, to school dance recitals and regular-run movies. “It was part of everyday life — the jewel of Glenside,” says Herbst. “New communities were built from that theater. Glenside was an early freeman’s community. Every race, religion, and sexual orientation has lived and thrived in this area, happily.”
Though the Keswick was added to the National Register of Historic Places in 1983, it fell on hard times and closed in 1985 and nearly faced the wrecking ball. “Some history here is murky, as we were owned by several nonprofit organizations,” says Herbst. “We were even owned by a Tom, Dick, and Harry — it’s true" she said, referring to Tom McCabe, Dick Gustafson, and Harry Barbin.
The Glenside Landmark Society got involved, and welcomed senior talent buyer Roy Snyder, says Herbst. He brought in Electric Factory Concerts' Larry Magid and by 1988, the Keswick reopened as a live venue featuring a variety of acts, including soul, rock, and hip-hop. In 2008, AEG Live bought the theater. Since then, the diverse musical mix has become a fixture in Glenside via the Keswick.
And so has Uosikkinen.
”I have played the Keswick six times with the Hooters over the last three years,” says Uosikkinen. “Two nights each year in November. It always feels like a homecoming because it’s so close to Thanksgiving.”
“We’re a family here,” says Keswick marketing manager Jennifer Muscatello of the venue’s home audience. “We know the names of so many of our attendees. We know where they like to sit when they inquire about tickets. We even know what cocktails some like to drink from our bar.”