Last night I went to a performance at the historic Warner Theater near where I live. The giant screen suspended above the stage played Bugs Bunny cartoons while the orchestra below performed the music. Those same cartoons were originally shown back when the theater was built in the 1930’s. Miraculously, the Art Deco style theater has managed to evade the wrecking ball that has demolished so many of its kind.
While sitting in the balcony last night I started thinking about all the time I had spent in that auditorium. I was a little girl all dressed up in itchy tights listening to Tchaikovsky while mesmerized by the Sugar Plum Fairy. There was the thrill of My very first concert and meeting Weird Al Yankovich after the show. A decade ago we filled the lobby with friends and family and celebrated the baby I was bringing into the world. I have so many memories that echo inside that gilded palace, but one visit is set apart from the rest. It was sometime between Weird Al and the baby shower. I wanted to take photographs of The Warner. I wanted to see her stripped of the fanfare of an elaborate performance with thousands of patrons. I wanted to see her naked. I politely asked the right person and he kindly agreed.
It was the only time I was ever in the theater when there was not an event. The lobby was vacant. There were no lines for concessions or the bathrooms. The curtain was up and the stage was completely empty. There were no people but the building was far from lifeless. The walls were beating with the energy left behind by countless souls . The halls were so dense with memories I felt that I could almost reach up and pluck one from the air. The silence and solitude seemed to magnify the grandeur of the theater. Without distractions she was even more stunning. For one afternoon that big beautiful building was all mine and I explored her from head to toe.
The glamour shots were first. There was the grand lobby with its over sized chandeliers and golden opulence reflected in mirrors that stretched up two stories. Everything either glimmered or was covered in rich red velvet. I took plenty of pictures there. Next were the grand stairways and extravagant halls that lead to the flawless auditorium. It was all magnificent and I could have been satisfied with what I had seen, but I wanted to see more. I wanted to learn her secrets. I wanted to get dirty. I went from the bowels of the basement to the framework of the dome that graces the ceiling. It was an honor to climb and crawl through the seldom seen parts of the theater and witness her vulnerability.
That was the last time I went somewhere with the sole purpose of photography. I have taken thousands of pictures since that day but photography had not been my main objective, they were a by product of some other purpose. On that day, I was there to shoot and nothing else. It was photography for photography sake. Now every time I have the good fortune to spend an evening at my favorite theater, I look up and remember the day I looked down.