Saturday, November 5, 2011

Schenectady, NY: Proctors - A Highland Evening & Ghost Tour

During my first two years of college, living downstate, I discovered my love of theatre - really discovered it. The proverbial light bulb went off once I found I could a)hop on a Metro North train and b)go see a show by myself (my college also had an excellent Broadway ticket program. I miss it.). I ventured down all alone to see Gary Sinise in One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest, then realized my love for Raul Esparza in Rocky Horror Show and then Cabaret and haven't stopped going since.

I discovered Proctors while finishing my BA and then MS at SUNY, when suddenly the drastically more expensive Amtrak tickets made NYC itself a once in a while, weekend-only affair. The theater itself is massive and beautiful, built in the mid-1920's as the crown jewel in Mr. Proctor's vaudeville circuit (which I just learned today). I really don't know how any theatre person could not fall in love with Proctors. Even though I spend more time in NYC than Albany these days, I still can't help but find myself at Proctor's during my weekends in Albany.

Friday evening, we were able to attend a "Highland Evening" program, which we have been meaning to do for years, but were never able to make before. They played approximately 40 minutes of the Edinburgh Military Tattoo (which I've heard while in Edinburgh, but am kicking myself for not actually attending) on the big screen in their GE Theater followed by performances by the Schenectady Pipe Band and the Braemar Highland Dance School. It was a nice benefit for the St. Andrew's Society and the second time this year that I longed to learn how to play the bagpipes. Mr. D. says I need to learn how to play the banjo I just got before pipes, but I just found out via the Schenectady Pipe Band's website that they have beginner's pipes (thus invalidating the investing more money into instruments I can't play argument) and lessons are only $10 a shot. He may never let me move to Albany full time now...

Today, we were back at Proctors for their first ghost tour, which I hope will become an annual tradition. I have no awesome photos to share (like the ones we got, including orbs, at the state capitol tour last week), but it was so much fun to get to see the theater in a different way. An usher took our group all throughout the theater - through the orchestra, on stage, backstage, to dressing rooms, and along the way, we stopped to talk to staff members about the ghost stories they knew (or had experienced themselves).

My favorite story was about the theater's mascot, a Shepard/Collie mix (and runt of the litter) named Asbestos. A close second was about a lion haunting the theater; in the 1980's, a circus came to the theater (which blows my mind) and the lion got loose, taking an entire day to recapture him.

We heard a little bit about Mr. Proctor, but are dying to hear more about him and the history of the theater. What did his apartment look like? What else is original to the building? What happened during the bad times? Did Gypsy Rose Lee play there? There are supposedly some free, albeit infrequent, volunteer run tours that happen there (and would possibly cover some of these things), so I really hope we can get on one of those soon.

I know I complain a lot about some of Proctors policies, but I love that place. It was very obvious that every single other person I talked to today, both working and on the tour, feels the same way. I'm so thankful that Proctors is what it is, offers what it offers, and hope that it will continue to be an important part of my Capital Region life.

*Crossposted to my theatre blog, because I can't decide where this one gets classified...

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