Sunday, April 29, 2012

Proctors Historical Walking Tour

Last fall, Mr. D. and I went to Proctors for their first ghost tour (they will be having another one on August 25, 2012) and left wanting to know more about the history and architecture of the 1926 crown jewel of F.F. Proctor's Vaudeville circuit. Lucky for us (and about 100 others), they offered a walking tour of the facility today (and do this every now and then).

...and this is why you have no good photos from me. I was too distracted to bother remembering my camera this weekend...

[Note: the stage was set for Menopause: the Musical, so no photos of the stage here]
We started out the tour with a brief history of Mr. Proctor and his theater and then split into groups to tour the building. The first stop was Key Hall, a banquet facility in a space formerly occupied by Key Bank. The space still contains the bank vault as well as the safety deposit box vault, giving the room a unique feel. If Bonnie and Clyde ever tours and Proctors gets the show, I really, really, really hope that they will have some kind of party here (and invite me). Can't you just picture it? Photo opportunities with the cast in front of the vault, catering staff in period dress, tommy guns here and there, and some sort of red specialty cocktail. It's genius, I tell you.

It's always difficult for me to imagine Schenectady in its heyday as a thriving city growing up around General Electric and American Locomotive Company - with 95,000 people living there during its peak in the 1930's (methinks thinks could be worked into that Bonnie & Clyde party...). As a matter of fact, the skylights in the arcade are a testament to the prominence of Schenectady in times past; during WWII, it was such a big deal of a place that it was a potential German target! The lights had all been blacked out as a result, but are now restored.

We spent some time backstage talking to Keith, the production manager - which was a real treat. He showed us the load-in area, talked about the flexibility of the space, and the wide array of considerations a production manager must make for shows coming into town (ranging from technical requirements to catering). I did not take too many photos backstage, as the Menopause props/wardrobe were set up, but I could have listened to him talk all afternoon.

We were also able to tour the dressing rooms, both the larger areas and the star rooms. The large ensemble dressing room was full of tables - some bare and just waiting to be decorated, others designed to represent various touring shows (and signed by that cast). I cannot even say how much I love this idea (ok, it's even better than my Bonnie & Clyde party).

If you know me at all, you know exactly which table I made a beeline for (and if you don't, let's just say that I like Hair a little bit).

Of course, there's the theater itself, with over 2,600 seats (want an idea of how big this is? The Gershwin, the largest Broadway house which currently features Wicked, seats 1,933. Most seat 1000-1300.) and loads of original fixtures (from the bathrooms to the fireplaces).

As I noted during the last tour, I'm not alone in loving this huge historical theater. Every person we talked to obviously loves what they do and I couldn't help but wish I could hear every story that our guide alluded to being able to go on and on about.

If you've ever seen a show at Proctors, have any interest in the history of Schenectady, or are fascinated by what happens behind the scenes in the theater, go on a Proctors tour. They are currently free of charge and it's a wonderful way to spend a morning.


  1. This is so cool! I'd love to take a theater tour someday. I took the Metropolitan Opera tour once and it was really fascinating. They take you all over the building.

    1. It's so cool that they do this. I'll have to look into the Met Opera blows my mind even watching productions (ok, the one time I saw La Boheme at the movie theater) thinking about what it takes to manage ALL of those people (and their costumes and their cues and the sets).