Monday, July 30, 2012

Monday, 30 July

Still in Baraboo, and the temperature is getting hotter. We decided to start the day by walking downtown to take the tour of the Al. Ringling theater. Turned on the air conditioner to keep the doggy cool and headed down the hill.

The Al. Ringling theater (we showed you the outside yesterday) was built in 1915, and has been in continuous operation ever since. It is generally felt to be the first of the beautiful movie palaces. No expense was spared to create an elegant experience. Much of the decor took as its inspiration well-known public buildings in Europe, primarily pre-revoution France.

The building is filled with Baroque art work, such as this frieze from the lobby. The ceiling is painted with cherubs playing among the clouds. There are seven boy cherubs, supposedly representing the seven Ringling brothers, and one girl cherub for the lone sister. She is holding another boy cherub to represent an eighth brother who died as a child.

That is just a small example of the way the whole building is decorated. Much of the original stuff is still there, and what little has been replaced has been replaced with top-quality goods. The building is in very good shape, though there is still a lot of restoration to be done. It is all taken care of these days by a volunteer organization, depending to a large extent on donations.

This is the chandelier in auditorium. The ceiling is very high and domed. Originally (and hopefully eventually) it was decorated with clouds and cherubs, similar to the lobby. This chandelier weighs half a ton, which puts it pretty much in scale with the rest of the building.

Unlike most movie theaters, there are boxes instead of a balcony. The boxes still have the original chairs. They could put up to 6 chairs in a box, but that would be very crowded indeed. Also unique to this theater, the fire curtain is painted with a scene, supposedly of Marie Antoinette and her maid being greeted and serenaded by some of the French courtiers.

The orchestra pit includes a "Mighty Barton" theater organ that includes drums, birds, and other sound effects as well as a full complement of pipes. It was designed for use in silent films, and could also be used with an orchestra or to accompany live theater. It either is used in the pit or can rise about five feet, as shown here. We got a short demonstration of its capabilities.

While circus money paid for the whole building, there is no reference to circuses in it. The building was meant to be a gift to the people of Baraboo by the Ringlings in appreciation for their help and support while they were developing their circus. It was not an any way to be an advertisement for the circus.

One of the things that made the tour interesting to Gene was the fact that as a child he saw movies in this theater. Saturday matinees lasted all afternoon and cost seven cents. That got him out of his mother's hair for a while. As a child, of course, he paid little or no attention to the grand and impressive decorations, or the quality of the construction. It was just the movie theater to him. Didn't every town have one? <censored> years later he marvels at the artistry of it all.

After the tour, we had another big lunch at the Little Village Cafe, and walked (struggled) back up the hill in a sunny day that had gotten into the high 90's. That led to a long nap in the air-conditioned motorhome. We made plans for the rest of the week but didn't venture forth again for the rest of the day. Tomorrow, we head out to visit another cousin.

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