I recently spoke with Patrick Colvin of the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre. The Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre own and are restoring the Variety Theatre in Cleveland, Ohio.
1. Who are the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre?
“The Friends of The Historic Variety Theatre are a group of local, concerned residents, business people and experts in historic properties.”
2. How did you get involved with the restoration of the Variety Theatre?
“As Westown Board of Directors Vice-President at the time, and area resident- in 2007 not long after the Variety Board was formed- I was asked to take a position for outgoing board member Chad Dasher (Westown’s Executive Director) to report activities and updates back to Westown’s Board, in addition to the fact that I’m a BIG historic building preservation buff.”
3. Why is it important that the theater be renovated?
“The building complex is a classic example of 20th century neighborhood investment. A “city within a city” if you will. As an “Economic Engine” this complex of Theatre, apartments and storefronts can be the center of neighborhood redevelopment- bringing back the area with economic activity and vitality and just like the spokes of a wheel- spurring additional investment in the area.
The beauty of the original space just simply must not be lost and could never be replicated in this day.”
4. How are the Friends of the Historic Variety Theatre raising money for the restoration of the building?
“Currently, through small fundraisers and continuing awareness campaigns-several “pop up” events bringing people, residents and local merchants and artists together to see what great potential the neighborhood has. Additionally, we continue to have interest into “ghost hunts” by local and state groups wanting to tour the space and have developed a “tour fee” structure to help pay re-curring bills in the short term as we work out the final financing package with the bank to settle the financial difficulties we’ve encountered-as we work to gain “clear title”.
Once resolved- we can push for the larger fundraising drives needed to push the project to completion.”
5. What is your favorite personal memory about the theater?
“While I came into the Variety’s life in it’s later years- I remember the throngs of people who would come for a movie or a live show-to relax and enjoy the beauty of “The Lady on Lorain”.
It is perennial and cross-generational. The Variety is a GEM and crown jewel of this neighborhood and while she’s a bit tarnished- she will shine again. I remember those crowds and I continue to want to be part of the solution and help restore the beauty and granduer of this wonderful palace of entertainment for all to enjoy.”
After photographing the Boyd Theater I learned a little bit about the Friends of the Boyd. I had a lot of questions, and luckily the group’s president and chairman Howard B. Haas was available to answer them. Below are his responses to several questions about the history of the Friends, his own personal experiences with the theater and some of his hopes for the future.
I’m pleased to announce that I’ve joined the creative team of Popcorn Palaces, an upcoming documentary that will cover the rise, fall and rebirth of some of America’s greatest theaters!
“Once upon a time, the theatre in which you saw a movie could be just as special as the movie itself. The theatres that America built in the 20s and 30s were extravagant, exotic fantasies designed to transport the audience into another world. The show started on the sidewalk the moment you saw the theatre’s towering sign, outlined in thousands of flashing, chasing lights, spelling out the words PARAMOUNT or FOX or LOEW’S. You had found your way to an acre of seats in a garden of dreams. “Popcorn Palaces” will not only be a celebration of America’s moviegoing legacy, it will also be the story of how theatres today are striving to develop new audiences. Long before there was a multiplex or HBO or Netflix, the ritual of going to the movies provided us with a gateway to a new and deeper understanding of ourselves and our world. Today theatres are priceless resources that are bringing new vitality and civic pride to our cities. Far from seeing themselves as a club for the aged, historic theatres have made educational outreach programs central to their mission. Theatres are part of our past. They are also a vital part of our future.”
View of the stage from the main floor of the Orpheum Theatre
I recently spoke with Lance Gunberg, a graphic designer and filmmaker who is also the president of Orpheum Rising Project Helpers or O.R.P.H, Inc., which is a non-profit organization dedicated to reviving the theater.