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Lifelong Learners

On October 27th, 2015 I had the distinct pleasure of addressing the Association of Lifelong Learners at Ball State University’s Alumni Center. My topic was the Rivoli and the crowd was a large and enthusiastic one. When I asked for a show of hands as to who remembered visiting the Rivoli during its early years of 1928 to 1940, nearly a quarter of the audience of 100 raised their hands.

I love talking to people about the Rivoli, because they so often have wonderful stories to tell. During the Q&A session following my talk, I learned two very interesting facts that I would like to share. The first relates to the picture I displayed of the Rivoli dome, seen below.

Rivoli ceiling dome, 1987

Rivoli ceiling dome, 1987

My recollection of the dome is how it looked in this photo I took in 1987. Even as a child visiting the theater in the late 60’s, this is how I remember the dome. However, a couple of people told me that their recollections of the dome were of the center  area being illuminated with BLUE light. How interesting! Most likely, the theater staff covered the inner ring lights with some sort of colored lighting gel or utilized blue-tinted lamps. Below, you can see the inner lip of the dome and the illumination bank that circled the dome. This is where any blue light would likely have originated.

Photograph by John D. Disher, c1987

Photograph by John D. Disher, c1987

I often mention how much of the Rivoli’s original ornate nature was lost to those of us attending the theater in later years. A large portion of the original plasterwork had gotten painted flat gray or white, and wall coverings made from cloth and other materials plus wood trim had long since been removed and remaining wall surfaces painted a neutral color. To illustrate my point, I displayed 4 photos. The first, of the Rivoli outer lobby, depicts a dark colored ceiling with hints of light colored designs. In later years, that same ceiling was white and illuminated with colored neon tubes running around the perimeter, as seen in the photo below. To my eye, in this 1955 black and white rendering the ceiling would seem to be likely a dark hue of red and the pattern a contrasting color of medium shading such as gold.

Photos courtesy of David Battas, Sr.

Photos courtesy of David Battas, Sr.

Rivoli Ticket Lobby

Photograph by John D. Disher c1987

The second and third photos were of the Rivoli inner lobby. The top image below was taken in 1987 by yours truly, and the bottom was created in 1928 by local photographer Otto Sellers. The 1987 image depicts the west end of the lobby, while the 1928 image reveals the mirror image of the east end of the lobby. Note the differences in stair railings, wall coverings, wood trim, and the plasterwork surrounding the room. The Rivoli was truly magnificent in 1928!

Nancy Turner, in attendance at my talk, 85 years old and retired from the Ball State Library, explained the color scheme of the early Rivoli in this manner: “It was a deep red, with gold inlay, gold patterns of some sort. It was similar to a Moorish Castle in its design.”

Photograph by John D. Disher, c1987

Photograph by John D. Disher, c1987. Note the ornate plasterwork trim that has been painted flat white.

Rivoli_Theater_lobbyIn the photo above taken in 1928, note the dark wall coverings and ceiling which Nancy Turner described as dark red. You can also see the woodwork that frames the ornate wall coverings, and see the sheen on the decorative plaster. Photo courtesy of the Ball State University Digital Archives is shown here for informational purposes.

So…I set out on October 27 to share some of my knowledge with others, and came back with some new knowledge for myself. Seems like a pretty fair trade, don’t you think?

As always, your comments are welcome! jddisher@comcast.net

Submitted November 3,2015 by John D. Disher

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