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My Blog

Theaters

Well, I have to start off today with a moment of sharing.  Yesterday I went on a tour of 2 of Chicago's oldest theaters.  The Cadillac and the Oriental.  What amazing architecture.  I have been to the theaters many times through the years to see plays, and was totally blown away by all that I missed.  When we go to the theater for a show....we are usually concerned with getting to our seats, reading the playbills and waiting for the orchestra to begin. I have never seen the true beauty of the theaters before today.  It was truly magnificent.  The Oriental Theater was the first Movie theater opened in 1926.  The faux rose colored marble pillars were spectacular.  The baroque freezes were totally amazing.  The history of how it was used back in it's original days was very interesting.  It so tied into my Traveling Vaudeville Program.  I may have stumped the tour guides a few times with questions...we both experienced a learning experience. 
The balcony was totally awesome in the fact that it was built without any pillar support below it.  These are things you would never have noticed going to see a play there.  When we walked through the theater, floor by floor we were amazed with one freeze after another.  The oriental  décor was everywhere on walls, railings & ceiling.  Truly nothing though compared to the opulence and grandeur of the theater itself.  Standing there under it's glowing sea green overhead dome, to the red velvet seats and curtains and valences was an experience of a lifetime.  The statues were Buddha's, statues were of goddesses with an oriental flair.  Birds, dragonflies, upturned chalices to represent the prohibition era.  Each wall or freeze told it's own story.  An era gone by.  It was totally amazing to me that this was in the beginning a movie theater who serviced approximately 7,000 patrons per day.  Going straight up to the front of the theater blew me away.   Today the orchestra is covered with a heavy black net allowing protection for the orchestra and the performers.  In my day in the theater, there was nothing like this  We learned that the plays that come in, come in with their own pops and everything else they might need.  That a breakdown of a Big show could take as long as 24-48 hours...back into 40-50 semi's to travel to their next town for their next performance. At the Oriental, Judy Garland had her first BIG debut. 
Once the tour of the Oriental Theater was over, we walked the 2 blocks down Randolph Street  to the Cadillac Theater.  Another theater with a grand presence.  Here the pillars were made of solid marble.  The heating and cooling was built inside of the pillars to create both the cooling or the heating.  The chandeliers were magnificent..  The replica's were so perfect one could never tell the difference.  As we entered the main theater and walked down the main aisles, our attention was directed to he caps under each seat where once the heating or air came through to each theater goer.  The beauty was nothing in comparison to it's history, where once you could go to see a vaudeville show, to going down stairs to have you hair done, perhaps engage in a smoke and conversation and then return to see another program.  When we exited each building, our attention was brought to the height of the buildings...the Oriental was 18 stories high....I couldn't believe I had never noticed that!  Yesterday taught me a big lesson....keep my eyes open to everything around me or I will be missing the best parts.  All the beauty isn't always right in front of us.  I need to take more time to look around.  History has been continuously just a fingertip or an eye glance away.     It makes me wonder what else I have missed through the years...but hopefully, by the grace of God, I have enough time yet to recapture some of the unnoticed beauty that has passed my eye unnoticed.  The theater has always a major love of mine.  Whether I have been on the stage in years gone by or on the stages that I am on today, or even just in the seats enjoying the talent of others, I am so blessed to be able to enjoy such a treasure.  Today I learned a good lesson.  Sometimes the treasures are held inside of a treasure box, and the Oriental Theater and the Cadillac Theater are truly Chicago's Treasure Boxes.  At one time, the Oriental was to be torn down and made into a mall.  Thanks to Mayor Daley Jr..  of Chicago, our precious treasure was saved and preserved for future treasure hunters. Perhaps you too will take one of Chicago's Broadway tours. If you ever have the opportunity to go inside....STOP....look up....look around.....look down and under....and imagine and dream of future theater goers and the ones who once sat in the seat you now occupy, perhaps almost a hundred years ago....I know I sure will.

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