Tuesday, March 28, 2017

A Tour of Portland's Theaters

I love walking along city streets and bumping into impromptu events.  Such was the case last Saturday when I found myself once again in Portland.  On route to Pioneer Place for some shopping, I saw the above sign.  I checked the time on my cell phone:  11:24 am.  Hmm.  There was a tour starting in five minutes.  What the heck.  It was free!!

Turned out to be so delightful, it was the highlight of my weekend.
For one thing, I was the only one in the lobby.  The three volunteers, sitting at a table and talking, seemed genuinely surprised someone actually showed up.  An older gentleman jumped up.  "I'll do it," he said.

"Are you sure?" I asked.  "It looks like I'm the only one here."

But the old guy was full of vim and vigor.  For the next hour and a half, I followed him up and down stairs, down long halls, on to (and behind) the empty stages, high up to the balcony seats and then across the street to the beautiful old Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall.  He was full of facts about the architecture and financing and the performing arts in Portland.  But it was his stories I liked best--those gossipy little snippets that you only hear on private tours.  I found myself laughing alot and thoroughly enjoying myself.
There are three theaters within the modern Antoinette Hatfield Hall:  1) The plush and elegant Newmark Theatre, which seats 800.  2) The more intimate Winningstad Theatre, which seats only 300, and 3) The tiny Brunish theatre.

There is a bar and bistro in the main lobby as well as refreshment kiosks throughout the hall.  Going to a performance in any of them would be a wonderful experience and one I intend to do often.  After all, I only live an hour's drive away.  My guide told me that in the summer (usually on Wednesdays) there are free concerts out on the street.  Oh, yeah.   
After touring the three theaters he took me across the street to the old renovated Arlene Schnitzer Concert Hall, which is home to the Portland Symphony Orchestra.  It's was built in 1927 as a movie theater venue, and indeed the old "Portland" marquee sign still graces its entrance.  The interior is Italian Renaissance with crystal chandeliers and mirrored and marbled walls.  
It dawns on me as I write this post that when I do return and go to a performance, the halls will be filled with people.  Would I even notice the cherry paneling?  The domed skylight?  The bar counter with its dancing LED lights?  I know one thing for sure.  I would never ever have noticed the two fingers on the Greek statue that had to be reglued after being hit by bullets!

  To see such beautiful interiors, empty and silent, is a rare privilege.  

So glad I stumbled upon this tour!

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