Planning a Great New Production!

Every new production at the Rialto Arts Center is exciting: a new beginning and a chance to shine. We all work as a team to bring about a successful and appealing even for the whole family. We owe it to the community that supports our efforts to provide cultural fodder for the townsfolk. At this time, I am reporting on our winter pageant, an annual occasion that brings smiles to the faces of adults and kids alike. Everyone marks their calendars as soon as our season has been set.

A winter pageant, unlike other seasons of the year, has certain requirements. No leafy, fruit-laden trees as a set, or flowing green lawns. No beaches, parks, or flowery fields. That would be suitable for spring and summer. In the fall, we have wonderful, colorful autumn leaves, hand painted by local school children. We raid the local pumpkin farm for props. Our Halloween show is sensational. But winter is near, and we need to think about making snow. It takes time and we have to plan ahead—months in advance.

You can buy snow in bags for theatrical use or get a machine. It gets a bit messy. It also adds to the budget. This year, we will be more clever and economical and use a document shredder. Everyone has old paper lying around, and it will produce the most authentic-looking snow that will also be easy to clean up. The set designer has enlisted the help of everyone so we have enough of the white stuff to fill the stage. What would a winter pageant be without it? Not much.

There will be a sleigh filled with costumed children and an assortment of icicles on the pseudo trees. We love firs, of course, for their obvious associations. A Christmas pageant would entail a decorated tree, but our generic winter version is meant to be symbolic of the entire time of the year. Set decoration is always the most fun part of the experience. The music, lighting, and dialogue follow suit. There is the need to rehearse, make costumes, paint scenery, and sell tickets.

This year, the shredder will be donated by a local business so there is no indentation at all in the budget. We will have the funds for better stage materials and amenities. We like to have intermission refreshments consisting of hot, spiced cider and gingerbread cookies. We ask kids to come in a costume of their choice, which makes the entire event that much more festive. After the show, they are welcome to take home some “snow” and decorate their rooms to their heart’s delight. This is our method of cleaning up the stage. Rather clever, don’t you think?

Day Camp

Theater people are community oriented. They love to put on free shows and especially to entertain kids. Classes in drama, makeup, costuming and acting are a regular part of a troupe’s activities. There is much time to do this between plays. I love it when the community center holds a camp for children when school is out. The children enjoy the novelty and it is so different from a sports camp. The latter is all about hiking, camping, fishing, swimming, and other forms of outdoor recreation. An arts camp teaches new skills that are not learned in school or during vacation. It is meant to supplement what parents provide at home.

I have helped organize these camps and am often asked to suggest fun things to do. Would the kids like to dance and sing? they ask me. They know that I have experience working with youth. I had a ready answer this time. For camp this year I wanted to see them use a trampoline to build muscles and character, killing two birds with one stone. Mastering a new skill builds confidence and self-esteem. Receiving attention from adults and fellow campers adds to the special nature of the experience. Kids learn to share and take their turns. They use the trampoline in pairs, learning to coordinate their movements without effort. I teach them fun exercises from that build balance and strength. I want them to go home tired but ecstatic.

I work from the very beginning when I explain the trampoline. The kids start with basic jumping up and down before that do tuck jumps in which they bend and pull up their knees. Then comes the seat drop, a very cool way to land on your butt. Twists and turns are for the fearless as are somersaults, pikes, and straddles. If someone is timid, I don’t force him or her. Usually they come around in time.  I showed them how I work out on the trampoline by jumping in a vee position with legs spread and toes pointed. It improves my diving position and also is a great stretch.

After proper training on basic trampoline tricks, I let them go wild and jump as much as they want until they collapse. I quickly bring in the energy drinks and bags of chips and cookies. When the camp schedule dictates another unrelated activity, they ask me when will the trampoline come back. I am flattered by their appreciation and it motivates me to pursue their “athletic” training. At the next session, I was shocked and delighted that one of the quiet kids asked me to watch a demonstration. He proceeded to execute a perfect knee drop. I let him teach the skill to the rest of the group. He beamed with pride. We moved on to another fun group activity: the back drop. Do you remember when you tested a friend’s trust by falling backward, expecting the person to catch you? It is much the same except that the catcher pushes you back up and the exercise is repeated. Every trampoline day was a holiday for these kids.

Budgetary Strains

Sometimes I hit the side of my head in frustration. Can’t anything go right. The Rialto is amid some refurbishing and we are on a strict budget. Everything we can afford has been factored in so we don’t want any surprises. Money doesn’t appear out of nowhere and we have done our fundraising for the year. So, what is the fuss all about.

The theater resides in an old building that is practically a landmark since it has been in existence so long. It was built with pride many decades ago by the town’s founding fathers and we don’t want to mess with the archetypal design. However, in the olden days, patrons would smoke during a performance. It was similar in movie theaters, restaurants, airplanes, hospitals, and libraries. It didn’t matter as long as it was a public building. Oh, how times have changed. You can’t even carry a pack of cigarettes inside. Ha!

We know that smoking was allowed because the theater has a musty smell, especially in the summer. It has been cleaned a thousand times and sprayed with deodorizer to no avail. The smoke is deep in its bones. Years and years, it has accumulated disappearing into the rafters. Sure, the seats have been reupholstered, but it hasn’t resolved the problem. This is the legacy of history. What is old stays old.

We had an air purifier for a time which helped immensely and almost got rid of the telltale odor, but it broke and was never replaced due to budget constraints. We always have them. Now it is time to do something proactive before the next performing arts season begins. Do we want to spend the money or apply it to something else such as a new theater curtain? They cost a fortune. We could re-stain the stage, rebuild the stairs from the auditorium to the stage, put in some new lights, paint backdrops, improve the dressing rooms, or buy new costumes. I can think of many more worthy ways to spend the money. But…that smell.

We are hotly debating the problem and decided to sit in the audience for a while and take a vote while experiencing the smell, such as it is today. It is a bit warm so the odor is more intense than usual. It calms down at night. This is the best argument for the new air purifier for cigarette smoke: No More Smoke Smell. One member of the board knows a local provider and has asked for a discount. To our great surprise, he offered to donate the unit of our choice. The issue was put to rest. No vote needed. We get what we want and more. There is money left over to re-landscape the courtyard, paint the exterior, make a new sign, and some of the items mentioned above.

It is a happy day at the Rialto and the budget is no longer groaning with strain. It knows it can provide what we want and need for the upcoming season.

Don’t Judge a Book by Its Cover

I love the theater and it is my profession. It is where I spend most of my time. The world of the theater is professional and exciting and you never know what will happen next. It makes my days unusual and filled with oddities. Every planning meeting is a debate, every rehearsal is preliminary, and every performance a thrill. It all happens in a whirlwind sometimes. You get through one project and the next is on its way—very fast. This means innumerable auditions. It is not my favorite experience as we have to turn down so many hopefuls and break many hearts. So many contenders give their best to win a role from star to cameo. It just can’t happen for more than a few. People you think have the right look and ought to be great have a terrible time. Others unexpectedly are incredible in spite of their appearance. Such was the case recently when a young man who had come straight from soccer practice, turned up wearing his soccer uniform, socks and all. He was perfect. He would have to change to a different pair of soccer socks, but luckily he had another pair in his bag from Top Corner Magazine. They made us all laugh. Plus they were a bright orange – so loud in color that they distracted from the tryout. Almost. Of course, he got the part.

Auditions are a time to shine and put on your best. This doesn’t just mean your acting, but also your attire. It surprises me what people think is appropriate such as what this youth had on. I get it. People have to work their schedules around our auditions and they can happen at odd times. There is no time to get ready if you are working or on the road (or player soccer). Auditions aren’t announced days ahead of time. They also are spread by word of mouth or last-minute flyer, thus catching many would-be cast members by surprise. The theater is a close knit circle. It takes work to stay inside. Once in a play, you are automatically notified of upcoming opportunities. All the local actors want in as we are the major venue in town.

The faces of the chosen few are wonderful. Big smiles and sometimes tears give expression to the face. It is a pleasant sight and one of the rewards of pre-performance responsibility. Come time for auditions, you have your hands full greeting the many arrivals who are often standing in line, giving instructions and a copy of the play, listening to the good and the bad, and making a final decision. You hold some hopeful’s career in the palm of your hand. For the lucky ones, they now have something to add to their resume.

Every play is a newly-created ensemble that must work well together. No competition, line stealing, argument, or taking sides. If a group is stellar, we might hire the whole lot back again. This makes casting a new play much easier. The young man I mentioned could well form part of a repertory group.

The Show Goes On However It Can

Life in the theater is always lively and fun; anything can happen under your watch. Let me explain. You have a different production every so often with a new cast and director, and their needs vary. You are on alert. You might be called upon to do any job, or almost any job. A behind-the-scenes worker or volunteer is not going to be asked to replace an actor. Ha! He or she might be asked to drive some old set pieces or props that are to be on loan to another theater. Recycling is common in the performing arts. It is not always a high-profit business. It seems like a pain to transport backdrops and such. Why don’t they come and get them if they have the privilege of using them. Here’s why. In exchange for the favor, and the trouble involved, they have agreed to make a donation to support the Rialto Arts Center. They recognize the value of good relations with a fellow theater. Who would turn this opportunity down? Not me. I would be willing to make the short jaunt. Everyone else was super busy rehearsing and working on costumes.

The theater rents a truck for hauling sets and it was available; but the props needed that day were rather small. I could drive them over just by stashing them in my backpack. There would be plenty of room if I just took my laptop out. The rest of the set would go later with another driver. The last time he made a delivery, the truck broke down and I feared the worst. It was time for some service. My car was in tiptop shape so I got to my destination in plenty of time. I have the best backpack for business travel, because my work takes me to a lot of places, and I like to use it when I’m doing things for the theater as well. I opened my backpack and placed the props on a table on the side of the stage where they would not go unnoticed. The director came over promptly and thanked me profusely as it would save him a great deal of time searching for similar items. He would send his assistant to the Rialto when his production was over. It was a cordial exchange.

I always carry my backpack as you never know when you will need it. If I go on a trip, I am already packed. If I visit a backer of the theater, I am well prepared. I tote materials about the upcoming shows to give out in person. Donors should not have things mailed. In person contact solidifies the relationship and this kind of public relations is part of my job. I am a one-man promoter and development manager. The good news is that there seems time to do everything if I hustle. I can leave the theater when necessary and preparations for the next event in progress will go smoothly in my absence. I can be a courier on demand. My work entails many other projects giving my life a dynamic quality.

Life isn’t all a Stage

Since I am the director of a local arts center, life indeed for me is a stage. I wouldn’t have it any other way and most days are far from dramatic. I am found most days in the community Rialto Arts Center. I seldom take a day off when there is an exhibition or theater production in progress. It takes a lot of rehearsal time and setting up lighting. I love seeing something creative come alive. The talent in our small area is extraordinary. I am proud to be part of the process and to impart quality experiences to the public. We have over time converted many a stay-at-home soul. I hope we continue to enrich their newfound cultural lives. I know that it has done this for me. It is all about exposure and encountering new aspects of the artistic world. Anything and everything is possible if you open your mind.

While this is my true passion, I admit it out loud, I also have a few hobbies and pastimes. You might expect my free time to be spent reading plays, watching old films of famous pieces, or taking singing or dance lessons. There are always new acting techniques to learn. While I might well want to do all of these, I don’t. I am limited to a game or two of basketball on the weekends due to a lack of spare time.

Basketball is a real workout and it takes time to adapt and get in shape. Once you are there, anything is possible. You can make many more baskets than you expected. It is a proud day when you beat your last score. Once in a while I get a tweak of pain in my knee from an old injury when I was acting on stage. Believe it or not, this novice fell off. The lights were dim and I was moving toward what I thought was my mark. There was even a piece of blue tape there. It didn’t help because it was just too dark. I couldn’t even see one face in the audience. Only afterward when I was on the ground did I spot a few expressions of horror. So now I wear a knee sleeve designed for basketball which is an elastic compression brace that helps my stability while dribbling and jumping. I couldn’t do without it. Maybe someday it will come off.

It is my favorite spectator sport and I play the best that I can. I found some fellow team members and we have a rip roarin’ time. It means we like to socialize during and after a game, and have a drink to finish the day. We all find it great exercise no matter how well or poorly we play. I prefer it any day to the boredom of lifting weights in the gym. I have to stay fit for my work as it takes a lot of agility sometimes.

Once the Curtain Closes

I love opening night. I love the excitement of the theater. Who doesn’t? Everything about it is not ordinary life and it draws you into its special realm. It is another world created by the most inventive minds where you have to suspend belief. I love the actors, the sets, the audience, and the acclaim. But I don’t love cleaning up after a performance. There is the set to breakdown, the props to store, the curtain to pull back, the sound system to shut off. You put away equipment so people won’t trip. Last but not least, you have to vacuum the theater. It is not as easy as mopping the wood stage.

I am tired after a big night, but it is a good feeling. I talk to the cast and we often have a quick drink and recap the show. What worked and what didn’t. Then it is back to business. If I am supervising someone doing the vacuuming task, I am obliged to stick around. This is the boring part of the arts. Once the curtain closes, it is back to real life. I like to put off that part as long as I can.

One day, my helper was feeling poorly and I had to take over, even as my friends were waiting outside. I vowed to be quick. Thankfully, we had just added a good upright machine from The Vacuum Challenge to our budget. Ticket sales had been going well and we definitely needed a splurge. Cleaning the floor is a nightly chore and it warrants the best. The new unit was a master at its job. It inhaled debris like it was starving to death. In the old days, imagine, they had to do it with a broom and dust pan. People always leave programs strewn about not to mention assorted candy wrappers and tissues. We still have to pick these up and we like to recycle programs until closing night, although most just read it at our web site or on Facebook. The vacuum is the most efficient part of this ritual. It is so good that you want to pat it on the back!

While I have help at the theater, I don’t at home. It falls to me to get my own Shark out. He sleeps in the closet and can’t wait to get some exercise. It is the same model as at the performing arts center so I know it well. It cost a pretty penny and I don’t care. When it comes to vacuums, don’t skimp. You get what you pay for. I love that it is high-powered and bagless. This is how they come these days. An upright has more oomph than a canister type. They are fine for small apartments. Hotels and restaurants use a top of-the-line upright. At home, I insist that there be a variety of attachments for every possible job from vacuuming the sofa and upholstered chairs to cleaning out the pantry and under the sink. It is a one-machine world chez moi.

A Challenging Set

Working in the theater is the best job. You do what you love, you witness all kinds of talent, you experience the triumph of success, and you fulfill your dreams. Who could ask for more? How many of you can say the same thing? There is something magical about the environment before, during, and after a performance. Gearing up for opening night is so exciting as to keep you up at night. You have the rehearsal schedule, preparing the set and props, conducting public relations and advertising for the local community. It takes a lot of people and a group effort. I have a lot to say about the reliability of my team. They inspire confidence and can solve a problem in a pinch.

We had a problem during the preparation for our next musical. The set was more complicated than usual. Frankly, we expected a painted backdrop. The director informed us that we would have moving parts that had to be changed manually during scene breaks. Not only that, but we would have to secure them. This wouldn’t be easy, he added, since some are metal. We had not done any work like this before and weren’t sure how to execute the task. As we discussed the issue, someone mentioned that we would need welding equipment and no one had any. After all, who keeps such a thing at home!

When the pieces arrived from the source, we set them at the back of the stage in the proper order. Hey were incredible and would make the musical very visually exciting. I can see why the designer opted for this choice in spite of the assembly needed. Yes, it was a challenging set and we love a challenge. Every production is unique and those with years of experience have seen all kinds of sets. It is nothing like you might have seen with Phantom of the Opera or Hamilton. Nonetheless, we pride ourselves on our state-of-the-art facilities and a crew that has no obstacles.

One team member has a brother who works in the construction industry. He was happy to help us attach the assorted metal pieces of the design. We were all there to watch, hoping we would learn something new that we could use in the future. Most of us know carpentry better than welding. When he arrived, we were all eyes. Attention was focused on his equipment and then him. He wore these amazing welding gloves from “Yes,” he answered our silent questions. “You have to protect your hands.” You also have to wear a visor, which he promptly displayed from his backpack. We all wanted to rush out and buy both items using the excuse that someday soon we would be learning how to weld. Maybe we could ask him to come in to do the instruction. Of course, he would be pleased he said.

The work was professional and proficient and we were there to watch every move. The set was a stunner.

Summertime Arts Camp

A community arts center can be a great place to spend those hot summer days. It can be incredibly costly, especially for a popular camp or one that has lots of student activities. So parents struggle to afford camp or daycare. Others don’t need those services during the year find themselves locked out, and it is hard to get their kids in anywhere—they remain on a wait list, praying for spots to open up.

But it doesn’t always have to be that way. I know that the community arts center here, and many others throughout the country, offer day camps for children on a variety of topics all summer long. Much of our summer staff are teachers from various schools in the community or are professionals in their field. We still do a background check on anyone we hire, of course. We try to offer a variety of cultural arts activities so that we can service the broadest spectrum of students while still keeping our costs reasonable.

One of my favorite camps that we offer is the art camp. We take a few different age groups and run several different classes simultaneously so that we can use materials appropriate to the skill level. For example, we might use modeling clay for the younger kids, and the older students would actually make pottery that we would kiln-dry. We provide many different tools and mediums to give the students a wide-ranging experience. At the end of the camp, each student picks a piece from their portfolio for an art show. We sell the pieces as a fundraiser. Most of the time, it’s family members who end up buying the pieces, and we display the ones that don’t sell at the center throughout the year.

Another camp that we run is the drama camp. The first week is auditions and anyone who wants a part has to try out. The rest of the students can take their pick from set design and prop crew, costumes (which includes hair and makeup), lighting or sound. We try to base our pick for the show based on how many students sign up for the class, and we ask in advance if they are planning to try out for a role to decide what to perform. The camp culminates in a two-day performance of their production. By the time the show hits the stage, the staff is usually just standing in the wings, watching and applauding. It is always a great experience seeing all their hard work come to life. And for kids who want to work in theater, this is a great way for them to get experience doing a variety of jobs. It also helps them see all that getting a performance off the ground and onto the stage entails.

We have also had instrument camps, depending on demand and what teachers we can find. We’ve done guitar, piano, drums, and a few others. They are a little harder to offer, both in terms of finding a teacher that is available on a regular summer schedule within our budget and also for enough students to make the classes worthwhile. If we do have more than five students—which, if we offer the classes, we usually do—we hold a recital at the end of the camp for the students so their friends and family can hear what they’ve been working on. Everyone deserves a moment in the spotlight, especially when they spend so much time practicing.

So if you and your kids are looking for something to do this summer, check out your local community arts center. You never know what you’ll find!

The Importance of Community Arts Centers

When you study other countries, one of the things you learn about is their culture. When you visit a museum, one of the ways you discover their history is through works of art. Listening to the music made by a particular group gives us insight into their world. Their stories and dramatics provide us with tangible language and fables from a time or place inaccessible any other way. These things are important. They leave a lasting legacy for those who come after us. The arts mirror the things a society values, reflecting a unique vision that defines us as a group. They give us an opportunity to learn in ways that textbooks and lectures cannot.

With schools being forced to downsize arts programs in favor of improving testing scores and because of draconian budget cuts, something has to fill that void. A community arts center can be the answer. You don’t realize all the different skills one can learn from a place like this.

For example, anyone can help us build sets. Students learn practical math and measurement skills in addition to assembly and teambuilding lessons. They may have to do research in order to create the appropriate set if we are doing a period production, or use problem-solving skills to figure out the best design. If it is a musical, it is another good way for students to learn math. Music is complex and involves lots of timing and fractions, and things like singing or dancing provide a tangible way for students to learn. And through arts programs like painting and sculpture, they can learn about different time periods, color theory, and various design techniques. Using their creativity can help students develop focus, empathy, confidence, and fine motor skills. Plus, all of these things provide an outlet for their creativity, a space place for them to express themselves and feel valued.

Another great benefit to a community arts center is that it is a place for anyone in the community to come and belong. As opposed to a faith-based approach or political orientation of some other community organizations, we accept all members of the community. We run different programs, some which are age specific and others that welcome all members of the community. The idea is to provide a welcoming place for everyone and bring the community together. And our productions include anyone who wants to be involved. Here at our center, we also support local businesses by having them sponsor different events or provide food/drink services. This brings the art and business community together under one roof, which we have found to be mutually beneficial.

In other words, community centers celebrate arts and culture, unite people together, provide entertainment and education, and can give people an outlet for their creativity.

My Favorite Production

I’ve done a lot of shows in my capacity as a director. Musicals, comedies, dramatic plays, one-man (or woman) shows. They’ve all taught me things—about how to work with others, how to solve a variety of problems, and how to tailor even the most familiar stories into something unique to the cast and audience. Each production changes me, and I wouldn’t be who I am today without those experiences. There are shows that I don’t think I’ll ever touch again based on the way things worked out, and others that I cannot wait to try again—either because it went so well or because I have ideas on how to do them differently.

Having said all that, my favorite production to date has been the summer we did The Pirates of Penzance. I saw it when I was young and fell in love with the music. It was my first exposure to Gilbert and Sullivan, and I don’t think I’ve ever looked back or had a question about what I wanted to do with my life since. It was funny and moving, and incredibly catchy; it had all the elements of a great story—the beautiful maiden, the dashing hero, the interfering Pirate King. Love and romance mixed with sword-fighting and clever wordplay. That’s pretty hard to beat. The “Major-General” song is perhaps my favorite piece of music ever performed. It is challenging to perform, for sure, and when it’s done well it both inspires and delights an audience. I’m smiling just thinking about it.

When we chose this particular opera to perform, we were looking at very possibly the best class ever enrolled in our summer program. We had many talented students within the perfect age range to put on the show. We did borrow a few talented adults for a few roles (like that of Ruth and the Major-General), but the students were—hands down—the stars of the show. We had a lovely and talented Mabel who was the perfect accompaniment to our sweet natured, duty-bound Frederic. An added bonus was that Mabel had several friends who were convinced to play her sisters onstage without much convincing, and turned out to be decent singers in their own right. Our Pirate King was both charming and believable, a difficult combination for the villain of our story.

The song that brought down the house, though, was “With cat-like tread” and it wasn’t hard to understand why: the kids we had playing the pirates certainly hammed it up when they were ‘treading’ around the stage. They were supposed to be fairly incompetent pirates, after all, who let their victims go the moment they cried “orphan!” They would crack themselves up in rehearsals but managed to hold it together during performances. I have to say, though, I bet even the people sitting in the very back row could see their wide smiles.

I was so glad that we had a warm response to the show; not just from the cast but from the audience as well. It made me really glad that we chose this particular production, and since it was so near and dear to my heart, it felt like an especially sweet success.

More Than Just Musical Theater

Many people are under the impression that The Rialto (and community arts centers like it) put on a musical every couple of months and that’s all we do. While, sure, we do put on musicals—and for good reason: turns out people like them and enjoy coming to see them—there is often much more going on behind those doors.

I cannot speak for all community arts centers, because obviously there is nothing regulating them or the use of the name. Your experience with your own community arts center is going to vary. For example, here at The Rialto, we often hosta myriad of additional events geared toward the community as a whole. Our facility is perfect for hosting large-scale events when space is an issue. We—like many other community arts centers—have been the home to comedy nights, concerts featuring various artists across all genres of music, plays, and recitals. There are so many great events you are probably missing out on. The best way to find out about things going on at the community center near you is to check their events calendar. It may be posted on their website or social media accounts. If that doesn’t work, you can always stop by! We have a calendar posted out front all the time, and your local center may do the same.

In addition to theater and events, community arts centers also usually have art programs. We teach kids how to use everything from watercolors and oils, crayons and pastels, collage and papier-mâché. It can be a great way for budding artists to go beyond what is taught in school. We also like to teach adult classes as an enrichment course. Sometimes we’ll even do those popular “wine and paint” nights. We’re constantly trying to find things that people in the neighborhood want to see and do.

Another thing I can tell you is that there is at least one thing community arts centers do that is often overlooked—we rent facility space. A community arts center can be a great place to host an event or a party. For one, you can’t beat the atmosphere. Typically, we’ll have a stage available, spotlights and sound boards, art supplies, projection screens, seating, and tables. All the things you’d typically have to rent for an event. We are often able to give you a pretty good rate, too!

Community arts centers are there for you as a member of a community. Even if you can’t sing a note or draw a stick figure, you will be able to find something of interest to you. It is our job to provide access to a diverse fine arts program suitable for anyone who wants to indulge in the arts as a hobby or to pursue an artistic passion. So check out the center near you, either online or in person. We’re here for you!

Great Theaters With The Rialto Name

When we first decided to start a community arts center, we were searching for a name. We finally settled on The Rialto. We felt that it brought the right connotation and spirit to what we were trying to do. There have been several great theaters with the Rialto name, and we are proud to be even a small part of that tradition.


Named after an area in Venice, Italy, the Rialto there is home to a bustling marketplace and greengrocer. As opposed to the more elaborate locations in Venice, the Rialto has always been known as a place for the common man. Its iconic bridge also appealed to architects and helped influence the design of many a theater’s exteriors. When associated with the theater, name Rialto mostly conjures up a picture of wondrous entertainment in luxurious surroundings: thick red velvet curtains pulling back to reveal a performance stage with a full orchestral complement, fancy balcony seating, stone archways, gilded fixtures, popcorn machines, and ushers in uniforms with red caps. Nowadays, the name can be found on many buildings, from the old and worn down to a shining office tower.


In California, there is a Rialto in South Pasadena. It is on the National Register of Historic Places. Once a gorgeous theater with an orchestra pit and balcony seating, this Rialto is hopefully going to be reinstated to its former glory. The other California Rialto most people think of can be found in Los Angeles has had several remodels. The interior does not resemble the opulent theaters of yesteryear like it did when it originally opened,when they showed a screening of the silent film, The Garden of Allah. It’s now an Urban Outfitters, but at least the 1930’s Art Deco marquee remains.


Another prestigious Rialto theater can be found in Tucson, Arizona. Opened in 1920, this Rialto had an incredible pipe organ that was played to accompany the popular silent films of the age. Nowadays, The Rialto in Tucson is home to a variety of concerts, plays, comedians, parties, and fundraisers. There is another Rialto in Portland, Oregon. It is a bar and poolroom, with off-track betting and horse track memorabilia. Raleigh, NC also has a Rialto theater, which originally opened in 1942. Although it was recently renovated, it still possesses the original performance stage. Now mostly a movie theater, it is known for its nearly weekly showings of The Rocky Horror Picture Show.In addition to theaters and buildings in this country, the name Rialto is known around the world. There is a skyscraper in Melbourne, Australia called The Rialto (or the Rialto Towers) and it is the tallest office building in the Southern Hemisphere. There are movie theaters with the Rialto name that stretch all the way from Illinois to New Zealand.


Our humble little Rialto is a far cry from some of the historic landmarks of times gone by, but I think that we do the name proud.