Center for Archival Collections

Archival Chronicle

August 2007: Volume 26, Number 2

Way Off-Broadway: Live Theater in NW Ohio | Archival Chronicle Index | CAC Homepage

An Actor's Life for Me: Theater Scrapbooks

Temples of the Arts: Theaters Offer Live Performances and Motion Pictures

People's Theatre, Toledo, Ohio

 Look Left The People's Theater, Toledo, Ohio, ca. 1920s

The People's Theater, built in 1889, was located at the corner of Orange and St. Clair Streets. The performance of "Thrilby" advertised on the posters was an adaptation of George Du Maurier's work "Trilby," very popular at the turn of the century, and featuring the evil character Svengali.

Source: CAC General Photograph Collection, courtesy of Toledo-Lucas County Public Library

Lyric Theater, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1920 Look Right

The Lyric Theater, located at 120 North Main, was primarily a motion picture theater (the price of admission was five cents), but often booked vaudeville acts on its small stage (price $.15). The motion picture billed on the banner marked the sixth screen appearance in a minor role of British actor Boris Karloff.

Source: CAC General Photograph Collection

Lyric Theatre, Bowling Green
Exterior of Clazel Theatre

 Look Left The Cla-Zel Theater, Bowling Green, Ohio, 1948

The Cla-Zel Theater, built in 1926, is still located on Main Street near Bowling Green's "four corners." Talking pictures were featured beginning in 1930, with the installation of a new sound system. The marquee in this view is the second one the building has featured.

This theater has many features in common with live theaters built around the same time. The stone facade at street level and classically-inspired decorative carving are meant to add dignity. The large number of doors allow the theater to empty quickly between shows or in case of emergency. Four frames set between the doors can hold posters and photographs to advertise the present and upcoming attractions. The ticket booth, at center, juts into the street. A much-loved local landmark, the Cla-Zel continues to serve as a venue for films and community events.

Source: CAC General Photograph Collection

Interior of the Cla-Zel, ca. 1930 Look Right

The interior decoration of the Cla-Zel's lobby continued the theme of classical elegance. Passing through the outer doors into the foyer (at right), movie patrons moved into the lobby, where an usher would collect their tickets and deposit the stubs in the receptacle seen between the double doors. Stairs led to the balcony.

Source: S. P. Stewart & Son Collection (MMS 947)

Lobby of the Clazel Theatre, Bowling Green

Programs and Posters--Getting the Word Out

Advertisements and Posters, 1900-1915

At left are several forms of advertising used by theaters and acting companies at the turn of the last century. The Imperial Stock Company invested in a full-page ad inside the cover of the Erie County Fair program, hoping to draw happy fair-goers in a mood to be entertained. Bowling Green's Chidester Theater opted for a smaller ad in the 1915 Chautauqua program, emphasizing its family-friendly atmosphere with lower children's admission prices.

Source: John A. Himmelein Papers (MS 184)
Wood County Chautauqua Association, 1915 (pOG 2339)

Advertisement for the Himmeline Players Fair ProgramChidester Theatre Advertisement
Advertising Poster

The green outdoor poster is printed on heavy card stock for outdoor use, but refers only to "the Opera House," making it useful in many communities without extra printing.

The Business Side of Show Business 

At right, the statement from Black's Opera House of Springfield, Ohio, for a one-week engagement shows the percentage of the box office split between the performing company and the house, itemized according to ticket price. The Ladies Complimentary Ticket was intended to boost women's attendance, and to let the public know that this acting company aspired to reputable entertainment.

Source: John A. Himmelein Papers (MS 184)

InvoiceLadie's Complimentary Ticket

The illustration found in a playscript encourages performers or theaters to purchase a copy for use in advertising or programs.

Scene from a play

Playbills and Posters, ca. 1890

At left, a one-sheet playbill could do double-duty as a poster advertising the play. The Faurot Opera House used a single cover for a season of live performances, but the inside had plenty of room for business advertisements and announcements of coming attractions.

Source: John A. Himmelein Papers (MS 184)

Palmer Opera House AdvertisementFaurot Opera House program Cover

Valentine Theater Program
Motion Picture "Queen Elizabeth," starring Sarah Bernhardt

In 1912, motion pictures sometimes carried the trappings of live theater. When world-renown actress Sarah Bernhardt filmed the stage performance of one of her signature roles, the Valentine Theater distributed a four-page program at each showing, similar to a contemporary playbill.

Source: Valentine Theater Programs, pOG 3894

Valentine Theatre Program for Motion Picture Queen Elizabeth, Starring Sarah Bernhart

BGSU Theaters: At Home and at the Huron Playhouse

Huron Playhouse, ca. 1949  Look Right

The Huron Playhouse gave its first performance in the summer of 1949. Now Ohio's oldest continuing summer theater, its goal was to offer students and young theater professionals the opportunity to learn every aspect of their craft from the ground up. Here, a director guides a class of students, possibly in makeup, or to otherwise prepare them for stage work.

Source: University Archives General Photograph Collection

Huron's Playhouse, ca. 1949

Stagecraft, ca. 1990s

At left, two workers move a "flat" into position. Flats are painted, cloth-covered wooden frames, which work in groups or singly to produce the backgrounds needed for the stage sets. The lighting technician is responsible for setting the lights for the stage, raising and lowering the levels on cue, and creating any needed special effects, such as spotlights.

Source: University Archives General Photograph Collection

Moving set backgrounds into positionAt the light board
Because of the strong stage lighting, theatrical makeup always looks overdone off-stage. Ideally, character makeup emphasizes the actor's own facial features, but sometimes effects makeup can be very stylized.In the makeup chair

Costumes and Wardrobe 

Good costumes play an important part in the spectacle of theater. They tell the audience much about the characters and the setting of the story, and this message must be visible even to the back row. The fit of the costume is crucial, since the actors must be able to move about comfortably.

Source: University Archives General Photograph Collection

Costumes and wardrobe, ca. 1990Costume fitting for 'Once Upon a Mattress'
Vocal Rehearsal

Look Left  Vocal Rehearsal

Musicals require rehearsals focusing especially on the vocal parts, to give the actors confidence in their solos and the stamina to deliver their songs with power. This performer is rehearsing her songs wearing the corset she will wear under her costume during the production. Since the corset will affect her breathing and movement, these rehearsals allow her to find ways to work with those restrictions and still fill the theater with her voice.

Source: University Archives General Photograph Collection

THE PHOTOGRAPHS IN THIS ISSUE illustrate theaters and theatrical performances in northwest Ohio.