TheaTour!: The Rialto Square Theatre

And then there was the day we performed in the Titanic of theaters, the Rialto Square.

Marble, gold leaf, crystal—this baby had it all. First class, here we go!

We’re a children’s show (If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by TheatreWorksUSA, which, by the way doesn’t endorse these opinions) so we’re not exactly used to this grandeur. We play loads of fascinating, beautiful, inspiring houses (see other TheaTour! posts) but Versailles, they’re mostly not.

The Rialto? Versailles it mostly is.

The theater, which opened in 1926 as a movie palace, is mostly GrecoRoman in its style, but don’t miss the Byzantinism of the chandeliers and the decorative boxes, which are swathed in a plaster weave of Middle Eastern patterns.

A dramatically lit relief that appears to depict the birth of Venus is the focal point of the proscenium.

The legs of the proscenium, however, refuse to be outshone.

It’s hard to communicate the sheer size and enormity and relentless splendor of the Rialto, but this panorama gives that a shot.

As actors, my tour-mates and I almost always enter a theater through its backstage, only venturing into the lobby if time permits and access is permitted. Thank heaven, then, that we found our way to this, the mother of the mother of the mother of all lobbies and esplanades.

The columns are scagliola, or imitation marble, though the darker pedestals they stand on are real. The archway is inspired by the Arc de Triomph in Paris, and the esplanade is fashioned after (surprise surprise) the Hall of Mirrors in Versailles.

That esplanade opens up into a rotunda, a dizzying circle of grandeur and luxury.

Crowning the rotunda is a chandelier known as “The Dutchess.”

While the gold leaf tapers off backstage, there are plenty of good views to be had, this stack of stairways for one.

And then there’s the lovely star dressing room, which (like other parts of the theater) is rumored to be haunted. (The Syfy show Ghost Hunters recently made a visit to the Rialto to investigate some of the ghostly claims.)

Outside, an appropriately massive marquis and facade hint at the treats hidden within.

Again and again I’m astonished by the wealth of theatrical treasures that bejewel our United States. Perhaps its the vapors of election night still floating around me, but that wealth makes me feel, well, patriotic.


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