August 15th, 2011

A Darkened Theater

We first enter this theater from backstage. Minding our footing as we walked past the decaying curtains and fallen light fixtures, we make our way out to the seating area.
This grand room, once full of light and sound now sits in absolute darkness. With only our flashlights to guide us this place seems much more akin to an underground cavern
than anything made by the hands of man. Even the floors have long since disappeared, covered now in the greyish-white residue of weathered plaster. We shine our lights out toward the rows of seats,
which illuminates some 20 feet of or so before our beams are dissolved into the inky gloom. This room was built to sit over 3,500 people, now it just
houses seemingly infinite rows of rotting red velvet chairs which stretch out forever into the blackness.

The room is so large, and so full of darkness, that we are completely unable to cast light upon the opposite wall or even the ceiling directly above our own heads.
Thankfully our “guide” for the day had an answer to the issue at hand. He told us to stay where we were, then immediately took off through a doorway. We did as asked,
and spent some minutes pondering amongst ourselves where he had gone off to, and what was through the doors. Not long after that we heard a commotion in the darkness,
and saw him emerge from the black. In hand he hoisted a large utility lamp and stand, the kind you often see at construction sites. Apparently a few lamps had been left behind
after a failed renovation project several years ago. Even more astounding was the fact that a far-off room was still on the power grid, again an artifact from the renovation
which never happened. After walking about and collecting some several-hundred feet of extension cord from various places in the theater, we were finally able to properly light the room.

Words cannot properly convey what it was like to click those lamps on and see the theater illuminated in its entirety. The blackness had hung thick around us since we entered,
and had given the place an almost claustrophobic feeling. With the click of a single button the room became washed in light, and the true scale of things hit you so hard it
was almost physical. We knew the place was huge, but to actually be standing in the midst of it was something altogether different. This room has sat in almost perpetual
darkness since its closing in the late 1970's. The intense humidity and heat of the summer, as well as the extreme cold of the winter months, has caused a lot of damage over those
nearly forty years. Still, the magnificence of this place is easily seen, primarily because of the extreme care and creativity put into its design back when it was first constructed
almost 100 years ago. The overwhelming detail work, for me, is what makes this place so unique. You continue to notice new things about the artwork the longer you
are around it. For instance, I was completely unaware of the numerous carved faces peering down at me as I sat by the lobby staircase. I was in the middle of taking a multi-minute exposure,
and as I sat awaiting my camera to release its shutter I found myself glancing upward toward the massive vaulted ceiling. It was then that I saw the forms,
many of them, staring bleakly back at me. In their faces the passage of time was somehow more bitter, as if they were trying to communicate what they have seen over the past
century, and how they pine for an age long since vanished under flaking paint and crumbling facades.

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