In the Round Tour Toyota Center, Houston November 12 2013 Taken by Wylde Soul Photography
In the Round Tour
Toyota Center, Houston
November 12 2013
Taken by Wylde Soul Photography

Be fearless. Have the courage to take risks. Go where there are no guarantees. Get out of your comfort zone even if it means being uncomfortable. The road less traveled is sometimes fraught with barricades, bumps and uncharted terrain. But it is on that road where your character is truly tested. And have the courage to accept that you are not perfect-nothing is and no one is-and that is ok. Katie Couric

*PS-Dear Reader- The only favor I ask is that you follow the story, Share if you are so inclined. Know that I am following dreams as you do.

60 Days-

Dear Josh-

The above quote certainly is a mantra for this journey, though it is one that I follow in my life. The What If’s would kill me if I did not. The undying curiosity about everything, the stories. Which is why I am so glad to see this book shaping up the way it is. The amazing stories of the theatres, what the walls have seen, what energy is still carried and the fact that you get to add your layer of energy to this history is nothing short of …well f-cking amazing…and if that is not a dream come true…well I don’t know what is. Being able to photograph it, gather the stories and then create this body of work in a permanent book, well that is pretty amazing too…and another dream come true….how many other dreams will we help create and bring to life because two polar opposites came together and created…”something from nothing”

My friend, Holly, last night said the energy that will be created from the ripples of our conjoined dreams and the creation of this book will never fully be seen by either of us and that is really the best part….the creation and the joy spread.

Today’s theatre is in my FAVoRITe CiTy…I ADORE NOLA. I went there for the first time several years ago over christmas. A friend I had not seen in several years flew down and we had a magical 4 days wandering the French Quarter. I was the tourist,  mouth agape and I saw and was able to capture so many wonderful images. I went again over New Years and it was even better this time. I just love the history, the energy of the French Quarter. My friend Sue and I met again and we even joked about living here full time… I was so entranced with it and my camera in hand that Sue had to literally grab my shirt and remind me she was there…..My friend P. Michael Hayes, co-founder of the band Hazy Ray lives there as well…I have given moving there some serious thought in the last few years. The music scene both the street and the style grab me along with the food, the art, the energy, the night life and the people.

I bet this one has some freaking fabulous energy, stories…and ghosts…let’s see.

Stop #23

Date: October 21

Theatre: Saenger Theatre, New Orleans LA

Seating: 2600 +/- (numbers vary between 2600-2700)

Trivia Facts/History of the Saenger Theatre:

Information supplied by Wikipedia

Image Credit: Wikipedia
Saenger Postcard circa 1940
Image Credit: Wikipedia

Designed by Emile Weil, the Saenger Theatre was built by Julian Saenger in 1927 for the unheard of price of $2.5 million dollars. Advertisements of the day described it as “an acre of seats in a garden of Florentine splendor”.  The Saenger Theatre opened on February 4, 1927. The 4,000-seat theatre took three years to build. Its opening prompted thousands to parade along Canal Street.The top ticket price was 65 cents, and the bill for each performance included a silent movie and stage play (produced by the Paramount-Publix Corporation) and music from the Saenger Grand Orchestra.

Architect Emile Weil designed the interior of the atmospheric theatre to recall an Italian Baroque courtyard. Weil installed 150 lights in the ceiling of the theatre, arranged in the shape of constellations of the night sky. The theatre also employed special effects machines to project images of moving clouds, sunrises, and sunsets across the theatre’s interior.Today, the interior atmospheric design creates a magnificent 15th century Italian courtyard and gardens, with arched surroundings, columns and decorative moldings. The suspension of disbelief is completed by a blue domed “sky” ceiling complete with twinkling stars. Greek and Roman statuary line the walls and statues of Venus stand on pedestals along the upper rim of the auditorium.

In 1929, Julian Saenger sold the theatre for $10 million to Paramount Publix, which continued to operate the theatre successfully throughout the Great Depression. In 1933 Paramount Publix converted the theatre to  “talking pictures” only.

In 1964, ABC Interstate Theatres turned the Saenger into a piggyback theatre, building a wall in front of the balcony to divide the larger space into two smaller theatres. The upstairs theatre was known as the Saenger Orleans.

On September 29, 1977 the theatre was designated a historic landmark by the New Orleans Landmark Commission. That December it was added to the National Register of Historic Places.

Determined Spirit

In 1978, it was sold for slightly more than $1 million to E.B. Breazeale, who then spent an additional $3 million (with co-investors Zev Bufman and Barry Mendelson) renovating it into a performing arts center. Pace Management also invested in the renovation and was hired to run the theatre.

Saenger Interior before Katrina.  Image Credit: Wikipedia
Saenger Interior before Katrina.
Image Credit: Wikipedia

The Saenger Theatre reopened in 1980 with a reduced seating capacity of 2,736.  Johnny Carson made a gala performance at the theatre’s grand reopening. The Saenger hosted a variety of events, including concerts in many musical styles, theater shows, and presentations harkening back to the theatre’s earlier history such as a showing of Abel Gance’s Polyvision silent film spectacular Napoleon accompanied by a live full orchestra. In April 1983, Styx recorded and filmed their performances on their Kilroy was Here tour for their double live album and concert film Caught in the Act. Then, in 1985, the management team of the theatre formed the Saenger Theatre Partnership, Ltd., a joint venture with 50 partners, to purchase the theatre from Breazeale.

In the summer of 2002, the Saenger Theatre continued its cinematic roots and showed three classic movies (Some Like it Hot, The Wizard of Oz and Gone with the Wind) in celebration of its 75th anniversary. The Summer Classic Movie Series became an annual event for the next 3 years.

 Restoration

When Hurricane Katrina hit New Orleans in 2005, the Saenger Theatre suffered significant water damage. The water line was approximately a foot above stage level, filling the basement and orchestra seating area. Fortunately it was in the middle of a major renovation, so all carpeting and seating had been removed in anticipation of being replaced. The vintage Robert Morton Wonder Organ at stage level suffered some damage. The administrative offices of the theatre and the box office on Rampart Street suffered extensive water damage. Photos taken immediately after Katrina often portrayed the Canal Street marquee as damaged, but staff had in fact removed the acrylic glass and other materials that could become flying debris during the storm.

Planned second renovation

In early 2009 it was announced by New Orleans officials that ownership of the Saenger Theatre would be turned over to the Canal Street Development Corp., a city agency, who would lease the building to the Saenger Theatre Partnership, Ltd. for 52 years. A stipulation of the deal requires the Saenger Theatre Partnership to host a minimum of 80 shows and sell 100,000 tickets each year. The unique alliance secured $15 million in federal grants, state and federal tax credits, and private financing as part of a $38.8 million restoration.

A main focus of the restoration is to return the Saenger to its original state. Work will include stripping paint to reveal the building’s original color scheme, along with using historic photographs to match hardware such as doors, light fixtures, and windows as closely as possible.The escalator in the arcade will be removed, the main entrances will be recessed to reflect the original floor plan, and marquees matching the originals will be installed. Renovations will also include updates, such as incorporating the adjacent 1101 Canal Street building to use as a restaurant, restrooms, and box offices; expanding the stage by 40%; installing central air conditioning; and replacing the ceiling’s trademark constellation with LED lights. All work, including modern updates, will adhere to strict preservation guidelines set by various entities including the National Park Service.

The marquee was ceremoniously re-lit in October 2009 to signify the Saenger Theatre’s rebirth. The marquee would remain lit every night until the theatre reopened in the fall of 2011.

In the first months of 2010 restoration work was begun on the theater. In addition a website was launched and the broadway tour producers Broadway Across America announced that The Lion King would play at the Saenger during the 2011-2012 season.  NOLA.com announced that construction on the theatre would begin in July 2010.

However in March 2011 it was announced that construction had not started, and the Saenger would not be ready until at least the 2012-2013 Broadway season.

In December 2011 New Orleans officials announced final financial hurdles had been cleared and construction would begin in earnest on the $51 million renovation in January 2012.

In June 2013, the Saenger Theatre announced it would be opening September 27 with three performances from comedian Jerry Seinfeld; one on September 27 and two on September 28. The opening gala would be held October 3–6. The National Trust for Historic Preservation cited the site as one of ten historic sites saved in 2013.

As an interesting side note………..

The Organ

The Saenger Theatre features an approximately 2000-pipe Robert Morton theatre organ, installed at the theater’s opening. One of the largest instruments ever built by the Robert Morton Organ Company of Van Nuys, California, it was the prototype for the company’s “Wonder Morton” line. The organ has a four manual console and 26 ranks of pipes. Nine ranks extend to the 16′ pitch. It was designed specifically for the acoustics of the Saenger, and is one of the few Robert-Morton organs in the United States still in the location of its original installation. According to theater historian Ben M Hall , the famed theater organist Jesse Crawford said the Saenger’s Morton was the finest instrument he had ever played.

The Saenger Theatre reopened its doors in September 2013.

The Saenger Theatre restoration was a National Rehabilitation Tax Credit project, whose scope of construction served to authentically restore this historic 1927 movie palace, and transform it into a first class state-of-the-art performing arts theatre.

The restored Saenger Theatre features beautifully restored lobbies and auditorium seating area with carpeting and lighting fixtures recreated from the originals. Expanded restrooms and concessions facilities ensure the greatest comfort for our patrons.

The expanded theatre stage house will be equipped with state-of-the-art theatrical systems ensuring the Saenger will be the most technically advanced theatre in the South.

Saenger Theatre Image Credit: ascribehq.com
Saenger Theatre
Image Credit: ascribehq.com

SIGH…..what a great story, a testament to the spirit of the people of New Orleans…I told ya, I LOVE this city….

Until tomorrow

Regards,

Miriam

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