The architect, Elmer F. Behrens, designed nearly a dozen other art deco theatres across northern Illinois, including the Arcada in Saint Charles. Behrns studied and loved Egyptology and put his knowledge to good use when designing The Egyptian Theatre. Instead of throwing together hieroglyphics, Behrns put together a much more cohesive design than other Egyptian themed theatres. Mr. Behrens designed this theatre with one central theme, that of Ramses II, also known as Ramses the Great. Ramses was the third Egyptian pharaoh (reigned 1279 BC – 1213 BC) of the nineteenth dynasty. He is often regarded as the greatest, most celebrated, and most powerful pharaoh of the Egyptian Empire. His successors and later Egyptians called him the “Great Ancestor.”
The Egyptian’s facade is covered with light sage terra cotta and features a 20 foot tall stained glass window bearing the ancient sacred scarab, holding up the sun god Ra while standing on the earth.
On each side of the stained glass window are two huge pharaohs guarding over the entrance of the theatre. The front of the theatre is shaped like the gate of a great temple. The current marquee is the fourth marquee to adorn the theatre and was commissioned in 1982 during the theatres last large scale renovation.
Stepping into the quiet small outer lobby is like stepping into the outer chamber of a tomb. With huge sandstone-like blocks for walls, the only adorned piece is the front of the ticket box office, dusky, sienna red with a golden sunburst above the window.
Passing through the glass doors into the main lobby, one finds the original mosaic multicolored tiled floor underfoot. The tiles used in the lobby are called faience tiles or tin glazed pottery. This type of pottery was found in Egypt as early as 4000 BC. The specific tiles used on the lobby floor in the theatre were gathered from other businesses around DeKalb during construction. Every little piece is a piece of DeKalb history.
The ceiling towers above the tile floor some 40 feet. Cream colored plaster walls on either side are decorated with eight towering ecru-colored pillars adorned with cornices of golden lotus blossoms and palm leaves. This stately hall is quietly elegant and is the setting for many private parties and weddings.
Two-thirds the way up the walls between each pillar are huge golden plaster urns, six in all, adorned with lotus buds and palm leaves. Above each urn are outstretched golden falcon wings with the sun entwined with golden serpents. Below each urn is a frosted sconce that matches the frosted milky colored commissioned chandelier that also bears the lotus blossom pattern. At the end of the main lobby is the original double staircase that cradles the chandelier, leading to the mezzanine and balcony.
Moving into the auditorium from the quiet and stately main lobby finds a royal Egyptian courtyard. Murals adorn the walls of Egyptian landmarks such as Abu Simbel, The Pyramids of Giza and the Temple of Ramses II. Over head tiny star like lights twinkle against the sky blue ceiling. Truly, this theatre is one of the more incredible examples of the Egyptian style.