When the doors to the auditorium finally fling open, the entrance lobby-corralled ’50s-era Technicolor characters and stars at the Civic Theatre’s Hail, Civic! Gala are embraced by a fog-filled dream world a la George Melies, where mermaids swing from seaweed perches against projected Technicolor backdrops of underwater ballets performed in the mouth of giant oysters with cloistered pearls larger than a synchronized swimmer’s smiling head. The electro-swing rhythmic vibrations, at once both modern and reminiscent of the decadence of a bygone era, ebb in time with the tide of an aqueous Hippodrome.
Feng shui, or living room make-over, however you want to phrase it, The Hail, Civic! Gala on March 5 could have been featured on any one of those home transformation reality TV shows. And we are pretty proud of this: with every event, from live music to gala party, our venue continues to display its ability to take on many shapes and moods.
Those in attendance at the event will surely recall the magical set brought to life through the gravity-defying feats from the performers of Discover Circus, tuneage from DJ Lady V, purrrfect movements of The Show Cats and the amazing room design created by Christy and Neil Pretty.
Just take a look at the photographic evidence captured by Louis Bockner of Eye of the Mind Photography for confirmation. All of this, along with the tasty bites provided by West Coast Grill and libations from our own in-house thematic Blue Hawaii tiki bar, definitely made for a wonderful night beyond the movies.
Like at Hail, Civic!, I also felt this transformation away from a simple movie theatre into something on the verge of magic, when my daughter and I saw Bahamas perform live in our space a few months back. The Civic Theatre is an intimate living room and grand hall all at once, and, with the soon-to-be-introduced fibre optic Internet, a future hub for innovative idea sharing for the region. It is fitting that these visions for a transformed space take shape in a Deco theatre built at the pinnacle of the dream factory era of Golden Age Hollywood.
Much has changed since the 1930s — technology has never allowed us so much access while simultaneously isolating us. Just today I was made aware of a space in Amsterdam called The VR Cinema where each person is in their own swivelling chair experiencing a virtual reality movie through a headset covering their eyes and ears. The image of a group where everyone is together but essentially on their own is a little haunting, especially when you see a small clip of a couple, the chairs swivelling in their different orbits, straining to hold hands as if the other was a lifeline to the physical world outside.
All sorts of questions, possibilities and concerns arise with technology use, and as an organization we want to be able to provide and facilitate a space to address them. This is a perfect future for us, as a facility with a vast history of shared community memories and special nights out. From our roots in the pre-television era to our current role as a home for film and gatherings, this transition to a space where we can be central in navigating the intersection of technology, film art and community is an exciting future.
What comes after golden? Platinum?
Jason Asbell is theatre manager, programmer and dreamer for The Civic Theatre.