Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary

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Recently, Kalamazoo's historic State Theatre celebrated its 90th anniversary with a party - complete with towering cake, artists in residence, and a Yelp Kalamazoo event that included a very special backstage tour. 

Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Photo courtesy State Theatre

Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo's Beth Clark

The State Theatre was designed by architect John Eberson, and is one of 15 Eberson atmospheric theatres left in the world. What is an atmospheric theatre? It is a theatre designed to take people elsewhere - through design, lighting, balconies, art, and extraordinary details (look up! The ceiling designs - both in and out of the theatre itself - are gorgeous). The State Theatre, built in 1927, transports guests to a tranquil Spanish courtyard at night, with twinkling stars, guardian statuary, colorful lights, art, carvings, balconies, and more. Renovated in 1964 and again after 1985, it's a local - and national treasure. The State Theatre hosts events of all kind - from concerts to comedians, movies to weddings. We saw Colbie Caillat here - it was a magical experience. 

Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary

Our Yelp Kalamazoo backstage tour started on the second floor, next to an interesting and original art and history display, curated by WMU graduate student Alicia Risk, a first year Masters student of Public History and the Frederick S. Upton Fellow for the 2017-18 school year. Beginning in 2001, the Frederick S. Upton Foundation has graciously collaborated with the Heritage Museum and Cultural Center, a local history museum in St. Joseph, Michigan, to sponsor one graduate student studying Public History from Western Michigan University to create a mutually beneficial relationship between the University and the Museum.

This summer, Risk worked on a memories project for the Kalamazoo State Theatre's 90th anniversary celebration. She gathered memories from past patrons of the theatre, compiled them onto cards, and hung them up in the theatre as a visual representation of 90 years of memories. She also did research on the building's architecture, putting together a self-guided architectural tour for visitors to learn more about the historic building's construction. She enjoyed doing research at the State, and noted that she can't wait to come back to do more.

WMU Public History student Alicia Risk, who created a history exhibit for the Kalamazoo State Theatre's 90th anniversary

Photo courtesy Alicia Risk

Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary

Photos above and below courtesy the State Theatre

Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary

Our backstage tour was led by both Alicia and Kalamazoo native Stephanie Hinman. She studied zoology and environmental studies at University of Wisconsin, Madison, and moved back to the area in 2008 and proceeded to bring her two worlds together, the natural and the built environment, as she pursued LEED practices for the Hinman Company. In April 2014, Hinman took on the role of Executive Director of the Kalamazoo State Theatre, where today she oversees day to day operations and long term strategy. Stephanie serves on the board of Binder Park Zoo and the DDA - Kalamazoo. She is passionate about cultural enrichment, preserving habitat, saving animals in the wild, and throwing a solid party. Stephanie is grateful for the Kalamazoo community and enjoys collaborations with the surrounding businesses to make cool things happen in the Kalamazoo area. 

Stephanie Hinman photo courtesy and copyright Brian K. Powers photography & Encore Magazine. Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary.
Stephanie Hinman. Photo courtesy and copyright Brian K. Powers photography & Encore Magazine 

What did we learn from Hinman and Risk? Well, they are storytellers, for sure - from fire doors to the famous organ (and the repairs needed for the blower), green room tales and hijinks, local history, and more. It was fascinating - and if you ever get the chance to take a backstage tour, I'd jump on it. We learned a great deal of local history - and Hinman and Risk made this remarkable local landmark come to life for our group.

Aisle 2. From Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
State Theatre fire doors on 2nd and 3rd floors. From Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Looking up at the fire doors on the second and third floors

The famous organ! From Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
The Barton theatre organ!

The bellows for the organ. From Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
The bellows for the organ - in the basement, by the green room and dressing rooms

I also had a chance to ask Yelp Kalamazoo elite & community ambassador Beth C. about the planning and implementation of this Yelp community event. She said, "Yelp's mission is to connect people to cool local businesses, and as the Community Ambassador for Yelp in Kalamazoo, I get to do that by hosting unforgettable events with awesome area businesses each month.

Yelp Kalamazoo Community leader Beth C (right) and I. From Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Yelp Kalamazoo Community leader Beth C (right) and I

In this case, the State Theatre reached out to us with the idea of partnering for their 90th Anniversary Celebration. The venue is such an architectural treasure and features so prominently in our community's collective memory, that teaming up for an Official Yelp Event was a no-brainer. 

But then we had to think of how we could add a remarkable element exclusively available to the Yelpers who would attend the Official Yelp Event that overlapped with the 90th Anniversary soiree. It crossed my mind that a behind-the-scenes tour could be a really special way to experience a beloved local business in a brand new way. I thought it was so exciting to get treated to some yummy local beer in the room where all the performers eat and drink before their performances, to see the dressing rooms and green room where they get ready and chill after the shows. It was especially interesting learning about how the fire doors and fire curtains worked and getting to see the organ bellows, which is normally off-limits for everyone.

After our private tour, there was still so much to explore including artworks created exclusively for the event, a wine and cheese pairing featuring a local winery and cheesery, a champagne and cake toast, performances by local musicians, and more. What an incredible evening to celebrate so many treasured Kalamazoo institutions."

A backstage tour included looking out into the audience! Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
ocal artist Gerrit Nieuwenhuis. Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Local artist Gerrit Nieuwenhuis

Cheese bar from the Cheese Lady. Yelp Kalamazoo Helps Celebrate State Theatre's 90th Anniversary
Cheese bar from the Cheese Lady

For more information, Stephanie noted:

Check out our Movies Down Memory Lane Series.  We put a post out to our Facebook followers asking them to share their memories of the State Theatre to celebrate its 90th year.  In those posts we read about many movies. We pulled the top 10, posted a survey, and the results came back with Mary Poppins, Butch Cassidy and The Sundance Kid (11/11), Monty Python and The Holy Grail, and Pulp Fiction as the top four. Announcement dates of the last to are soon to come. 

Visit our new website at www.kazoostate.com for updates on events. We continue to add more every month. Stay in tune with presale passwords through our Facebook page and email blast. We are not affiliated with third party sellers. Tickets available in-person-only through our box office on Fridays and event days, and through ticketmaster.com.  

Thanks again, and hope to see you soon at the Kalamazoo State Theatre! 

 

 

All photos courtesy and copyright Wandering Educators, except where noted

 

 

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