This Is Me--2019 A to Z Theme

This Challenge of 2019 will be the 10th! Since this is kind of a milestone year for A to Z my theme will be a retrospective of sorts, looking at my 10 years as a blogger as well as ruminations about my life as it is and as I hope it yet can be. I've got places to be and people to see along the way. Hope you'll join me for this part of my journey...

Always a work in progress--welcome to my blog.

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Tuesday, April 23, 2019

Theaters ( #AtoZChallenge )


Those vaudeville days of riding the rail from town to town playing the  marvelous old theaters must have been a grand time!  Also rather grueling I'd guess, but grand nevertheless...


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Lincoln Theater Marion Virginia

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The Ritz  Tiffin Ohio




#AtoZChallenge 2019 Tenth Anniversary blogging from A to Z challenge letter T



          During the seventies and eighties when I was on the road with stage show companies, we played hundreds of school auditoriums, legion halls, and other facilities that had been booked for us.  Some of these were very nice with good stages and decent lighting while others were a challenge to set up in and make the show look as high-quality as we could.  There are some stories to be told about some of these odder venues, but I'll save those for another time.

          Some of my favorite places that we played were the old theaters from the vaudeville era.  Those were the days when theaters were constructed with themes in mind.  They were luxurious and ornate with fancy chandeliers, wall murals, and velvet seats.  Going to a theater for a show or a film was not just an outing, but an event.  Fortunately for us today, a good many of these old theaters have been maintained and in many cases meticulously restored to their earlier glory.

          Though it was usually pretty awesome to behold the auditoriums and to appreciate the large stages that facilitated our work presenting our show, it was perhaps even more fascinating to experience the aura of the history in the backstage area and dressing rooms.  After setting the show up, if I had enough time, I would often explore those backstage areas and places like the basements if they had them.  One could imagine the players of past time preparing for their own shows and presenting them to the packed houses who would attend. 

          Thinking back on some of those theaters we played, there are many I recall while others I would have to think deeply to revive those memories.  We played small theaters as well as big theaters. There was the Tivoli Theater in the small town of Spencer Indiana and the Ritz in Tiffin Ohio.  Playing in my parents' home state of West Virginia, our shows performed at the Metropolitan in Morgantown and the Robinson Grand in Clarksburg.  Then there were the elegant houses such as the Missouri Theater in St Joseph and the Saenger in Hattiesburg Mississippi.

          Playing theaters such as these added a certain element of greater legitimacy to what we were doing as a touring theater company.  Somehow it was like being a part of history to be in such historical places.  And the good news is that most--maybe all--of those old theaters we played 30 to 40 years ago are still in operation.  Additionally, many shuttered former vaudeville houses are being restored to their former glory and reopened for touring companies and local productions.

         Someday I'd like to go back to some of these theaters to experience them again.  To wander the backstage areas, explore the dressing rooms, and feel those exquisitely adorned auditoriums all around me.  A tour sounds like fun.  To stand on the stage under the lights one more time would be exciting as it evoked old memories.

          Those wonderful old theaters--they are out there all across America.   Just where I would like to be.  One that I've got my dreams fixated on is the Lincoln Theater in Marion Virginia.  I've never played that theater or even been inside for that matter.  Marion is like my dream town--has been for many years.  Knowing that there is an elegant old restored theater there makes it all the more appealing.   Yes, there are enough old restored theaters across America to make for a fine tour. 

             That sounds like a pretty cool dream to me.


Are there any old vaudeville era theaters where you live--restored or not?   Have you ever performed or watched a performance in one of these types of theaters?   Does anyone have any information about Marion Virginia or the surrounding area that they'd like to share?




                 








32 comments:

  1. Wonderful "T" post Lee. I think the highlight of theatres I've visited must be "The Grand Ole Opry" at Nashville. Wonderful theatre, wonderful occasion.

    Yvonne.

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    1. Yvonne, I've never been to the Grand Ole Opry (neither the original or the newer one at Opryland). Someday maybe.

      Lee

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  2. Next time you hit the road, schedule a stop at one or two of them.

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    1. Alex, usually I'm in too big of a rush to get where I'm going and I don't know that my wife would be as enthused as I would about seeing these theaters. Maybe next time I'm traveling alone.

      Lee

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  3. I love old theatres and feel we've lost something in not building them anymore. That feeling you had about exploring back stage or in basements, I used that in my first published novel, because I too, love that feeling of looking where it feels only ghosts might visit anymore. In Columbus Ohio there are at least four "old" theatres that have been restored and are in consistent use. What treasures...

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    1. Lisa, Well, like that saying goes: "They don't build 'em like they used to".

      Lee

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  4. We have lots of old theatres in the UK but so many are shut up or converted into other uses, there are still a fair few around though. Having harboured a desire to be an actor when I was younger, I too think there's something magic about the backstage and the atmosphere of anticipation!

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    1. Nick, I'm sure that many old theaters in the U.S. still existed in shuttered states or in poor repair. That backstage feeling is like none other I've known.

      Lee

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  5. I'm not sure if any of the theaters I remember from Chicago hosted vaudeville, but there were some absolute palaces there. The closest theater to me was the Granada, which was simply magnificent and which was allowed to go to seed after it closed. It was a disgrace that they would let it degenerate like that. They eventually tore it down and built senior housing there. If you remember one of the early opens for "Sneak Previews" with Siskel and Ebert, the Granada's marquee was used for the title. I remember being out wandering around Rogers Park during the summer of 1977 and watching them film that. '

    There was another, smaller theater about a mile north of The Granada called The 400. Kind of an unassuming place, really; they might have done vaudeville in there, but I can't be sure.

    The Chicago Theater, of which there are hundreds of pictures on Instagram, might have been used for vaudeville. It was primarily a movie theater when I was growing up, but they're now doing live shows there. That's where I saw Johnny Rivers and Roy Orbison in '87. Another magnificent theater.

    Practically every theater in Atlanta is relatively new. The Fox Theater is a landmark here, though, and is the kind of place you described. It might have also hosted some vaudeville.

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    1. John, I'd say many of the grand old theaters in Chicago are from the vaudeville era. If it has a big stage then most likely it was.

      I saw Frank Zappa at the Fox in 1981 I think it was. Such a majestic theater.

      Lee

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  6. My first (only!) experience came last year when we attended a 'Sean of the South' performance in Tallassee's ancient theatre house (Mt. Vernon Theatre). I'd have loved to tour backstage ... but wouldn't want to ever again have to sit in one of their gosh-awful wooden seats.

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    1. Myra, wooden seats don't seem right. That's like a high school auditorium.

      Lee

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  7. I sang in a theater once. Wow the acoustics! Most of the time I'm in the audience of old and new theaters.

    Ugh, I wish I had participated in the A-Z this year.

    Teresa

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    1. Teresa, I wish you had participated as well! At least you're visiting!

      Lee

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  8. The grandest old theater here in Atlanta must be the fabulous Fox with the moving clouds in the ceiling and all. I don't know about vaudeville though.

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    1. Kristin, I referred to the Wikipedia article about the Fox. It was opened in 1929 as a movie theater. They must have expanded the stage in recent decades. It's a beautiful theater--I was there in 1981 to see a concert.

      Lee

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  9. The grandest old theater in Buffalo is Shea's Buffalo. It is quite some theater! I had the opportunity during the winter to see a movie there (Annie) and a ballet (The Nutcracker). A number of years ago, I got to perform there, as I was a member of the chorus in three different operas: Aida, Turandot, and Tosca. That was when I discovered how much I liked opera. I also discovered that opera is a better participation sport than spectator sport. It was so much fun to perform and so exciting to experience it in such an historic theater!

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    1. Alice, I've been to see one opera live--Mozart's "Abduction from the Seraglio" at the Tennessee Theater in downtown Knoxville Tennessee. I enjoyed it, but I can imagine being in it might be more fun.

      Lee

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  10. I noted you told another commenter "My wife might not be as enthused..." but, if you share lives, you share this too. Go for it!

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  11. I've seen some shows at the Curran and the Golden Gate Theaters in San Francisco that look like that. I love the look.

    Janet’s Smiles

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    1. Janet, yes, there is an elegance and sense of character that we usually don't see in modern places.

      Lee

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  12. We have functioning old theatres here too, reminiscent of the glory of olden times! Keep your dream alive Arlee!

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    1. Susan S, old theaters can be found all over the world I'd say.

      Lee

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  13. I've been to The Egg in Albany, NY, and Proctor's Theatre in Schenectady a number of times, and probably also Albany's Palace Theatre. All these beautiful old theatres deserve to be preserved. Even if most contemporary shows aren't anything like the ones they hosted originally, it's a wonderful bridge between past and present.

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    1. Carrie-Anne, I've been so pleased to see so many old theaters being nurtured back to life. Though I haven't been to any of them, there are some wonderful old theaters in downtown L.A. that hold presentations including the occasional TV show.

      Lee

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  14. I have never been to the theater, hang on I think I did go once when I was a teenager with mum & nanna

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    1. Jo-Anne, I'm sure you must have been in numerous theaters in your life--maybe not ones like I've discussed, but surely high school theaters and the like?

      Lee

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  15. I have a book on the old picture palaces that were everywhere but so many have been demolished so it’s nice to see some that have survived. In Toronto there is the Royal Elgin and Winter Garden theatre that I was so happy to see A musical in. It’s a stunning theatre that used to have vaudeville shows and silent pictures.

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    1. Birgit, I went to the Royal Alexandria Theater in Toronto to see Petula Clark with a variety show back in 1982. What a neat place!

      I hope no more of these grand old theaters are demolished and more are restored.

      Lee

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  16. I feel fortunate to have been to many of the surviving UK theatres - mainly in London's theatre-land - and many were as ornate and beautiful as the ones you describe.I also went to newer theatres that lacked the charm - but the most fascinating backstage visit was to the National Theatre built in the mid 197os. I've also been to The Globe - a modern replica of the Elizabethan theatre.

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    1. Roland, I'm sure London has some great theaters. New theaters can be pretty impressive. I always liked it when our show when play at a high school that had a state of the art theater.

      Lee

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Lee