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Living arts to once again liven up Rock Island`s Establishment Theater

The Center for Living Arts is preparing to move into the Establishment Theater.

ROCK ISLAND, Illinois -- The Establishment Theater in Rock Island has new tenants. The Center for Living Arts, a studio theater space owned by husband and wife team Dino and Tina Hayz, is preparing to move in.

On Thursday, Creative Director Dino was still rehearsing with dozens of students at the center's old location on 4th Avenue. High School Students from around the Quad Cities area were gearing up for their big summer production of the musical "Legally Blonde."

"It’s bittersweet knowing that this will be the last performance here," he said.

The couple just celebrated the theater's thirteenth anniversary, and the move just a few blocks away to 220 19th Street, the location known until recently as "The Establishment," was a long-awaited milestone.

"We are going into our 14th season with 200 students," Dino said. That number grows to about 300 when the center hosts the Penguin Project, a program that includes young performers with special needs.

But Dino and Tina said they and the students were excited about the move. "Most of them are excited. We took them over to the new space last week," he said. "It’s a real theater, it’s historic."

"I’d be lying if I didn’t say, I’m a little bit scared. This place (on 4th Avenue) we built, we built completely at our own whims, not having to worry about the history."

The new space first opened as Rocket Cinemas 80 years ago and last housed ComedySportz.

"I can’t tell you how moving it is to be tenants of that space and stewards of that space moving forward," Dino said. "To know that it was a real theater in its beginning and we’re going to continue that, bringing live theater to that area."

Dino and his wife and managing director Tina have big plans for their new space. They plan to double the square footage of the stage from what they currently have, and double the number of seats to about 300.

"Right now with our limited seating, we pretty much sell out to our families and friends of our cast members. Now we'll be opening up our seating to community as well," Tina said.

The duo is just imagining the possibilities.

"We want to make our off-show nights, to have a location where kids can come, have some drinks and snacks, and do theater karaoke and just hang out, have a place for them to go and geek out with their other theater friends," Dino added.