The essence of vaudeville will meet the spirit of the 21st century next week as the Friends of the Coleman host a “hi-definition” telling of the Coleman Theatre Beautiful story.
The public is invited to a free showing of a 30-minute documentary produced by Rogers State University and edited by Big Productions.
The Sony Corporation will contribute to the 7 p.m. June 28 showing by providing a specialized projector and DVD player to accommodate the university's first hi-definition production.
“We are viewing this as a celebration of what our community has accomplished,” said Barbara Smith, manager of the historic 1929 theatre. “We hope to have a full house.”
The production concludes three months of interviews and research conducted by university staff, according to Smith.
“RSU public television obtained its first hi-definition equipment and they decided, as its first hi-definition documentary project, they would do a documentary on the Coleman,” Smith said.
Smith said the high-quality documentary, if it had been commissioned by the theatre, would have been a $75,000 undertaking.
“This is a great gift to the community,” Smith said.
Miami resident David Froman narrates the program which walks viewers through more than seven decades of Coleman history, depicting both its brightest hey days and its darkest hours of neglect and disrepair.
Dr. Ron Gilbert, a member of the Friends of the Coleman and one of hundreds of volunteers who have helped to restore the theatre, said the program stirs a mix of emotion in him.
“When you think about the time that was spent - years - that was spent revitalizing the theatre and you see it condensed into 30 minutes … you ask ‘how did this happen?'” Gilbert said. “It was very exciting to watch. We felt like celebrating, but it also tugged at everyone's heart.”
Smith said Big Productions did an “excellent” job of condensing hours of film into a half-hour show.
“I found it amazing that strangers came in, looked at the theatre, heard everybody's versions of the renovation story, understood it and ‘got it,'” Smith said. “Then, they put it all together and packaged it in a way that captured that.”
Friends of the Coleman will provide free popcorn and drinks for patrons at the one-time showing.
According to Gilbert and Smith, the documentary serves as a lasting tribute to the most treasured of “Coleman Theatre miracles” - the volunteers.
“Even in the face of a time when this community was in trouble, in the 1980s when the B.F. Goodrich plant closed, there were people who thought that this, the Coleman, was an important piece to keep,” Gilbert said.
Gilbert referenced the days when there was talk that demolition was the best option for the then dilapidated building.
“The people that worked to keep that from happening - they are the miracle,” Gilbert said.