My house is about 45 years old, so the work has included replacing things like the stove and the refrigerator. The roof is newer than the house as is some of the plumbing. Things inside are certainly younger than the house: the TV, the telephone, the toilets. We have a microwave and a computer that weren’t there when it was built.
Popejoy Hall is a lot like our houses. It’s 45 years old. It’s been remodeled a few times, once extensively. There’s equipment in it now that wasn’t there when it was built. Just like the updates in our houses, those improvements cost money.
The difference is that Popejoy can’t just put it on the credit card. Moreover, the income from tickets sold only cover shows and operational costs. So we have a growing list of improvements waiting for the monetary resources to cover the costs.
That list of improvements includes some interesting things. One is to replace the lighting computer. When Popejoy was built, computer-run lighting didn’t exist. Now theatrical lights have built-in computers that talk to other computers that control them. That’s if the equipment is up to date. Ours isn’t.
I tend to replace my computer every three or four years just to make sure it will do what I want it to do. Even if you stretch your computer’s life to five or six years, Popejoy’s lighting computer is older than that. It’s 13 years old. That’s older than Windows XP.
I’m sure the refrigerator in my house is more efficient than the refrigerator originally furnished. I know my light bulbs are. Popejoy’s stage lights are not very efficient. The latest technology in stage lighting instruments uses LEDs instead of bulbs. If we had LED lights, they would run cooler and more efficiently than bulb-based instruments. Right now, if we want to change the color of the light coming out of our instruments, we have to put a filter in front of the lens. To have a second light with a different color focused on the same spot on stage requires a second instrument. An LED light could replace both those lights because you can change the color of the light it emits with computer commands.
I mentioned earlier that all the toilets in my house have been replaced. The ones in Popejoy's dressing rooms are still original equipment as are the sinks and showers. It takes a lot of maintenance to keep them all working. But there’s no money, no 90-days-same-as-cash deal we can use to replace them.
The rigging system that moves scenery in and out is twice as old as industry standards. Our curtains are 15 years old and getting threadbare. Our dressing tables don’t provide enough room for today’s performers who often play two or three characters in the same show and need wigs for them all.
Clearly the Popejoy job jar is full, but the piggy bank is not.
This is not an uncommon circumstance. Every theater in this city could stand some upgrades and they all suffer from the same problem: ticket revenues don’t stretch to cover the ways to make our theaters better, brighter, safer and more welcoming.
If you have any way of supporting any local theater for any improvement to its facility, you might even get your name attached to it. Kind of like when you scratched your name in the fresh cement after you replaced your sidewalk, right?
Terry S. Davis
Photo by ww_whist