Restored Coleman still captures drama
By KAREN SHADE World Scene Writer
Published: 2/28/2010 2:22 AM
Last Modified: 2/28/2010 6:16 AM
MIAMI, Okla., Barbara Smith is about to go into a frenzy, but she’s trying her utmost best not to show it.
The former theater teacher, now executive director, of the Coleman Theatre in Miami, Okla., is at the beginning of a mystery.
“No one is to take anything from this theater unless they ask me,” she said only two minutes earlier in a gentle, yet firm voice to the two kind volunteers who watched. Two teenage boys walked into the lobby of the historic theater on Route 66, told them they were “here to pick up something” for somebody and then later walked out with one of two power packs from the stage area.
On the stage, at the moment hiding a painted pastoral backdrop that is as old as the theater itself, is more chaos as men move items back and forth offstage, wondering what happened to the power pack — specifically, the power pack that supplies power to the theater’s lighting and sound systems. Obviously, they aren’t cheap.
Smith flicks a switch on the back of an organ to the left of the stage. This isn’t just any organ. It’s the “Mighty Wurlitzer” pipe organ, warming up and playing a sweet jewelry-box tune as Smith excuses herself to look for more answers.
Enter stage right, a cop. Cue music.
Through with its lullaby, the Mighty Wurlitzer blasts out the ominous theme to “Phantom of the Opera” as if to prove it still has wind enough to shake the chandelier that hung on opening night in 1929. That organ was there then, and it took a lot of work
to get it back, to restore the chandelier and just about everything else in the theater that Mr. Coleman built.
And the crew of the Coleman Theatre today, no doubt, will do just as much to get back that power pack.
Talk about drama in the theater.
Built by George L. Coleman, the theater was completed for an opening on April 18, 1929. Miami, on Route 66, and mining and oil were the big industries once Coleman and others discovered zinc and lead in the surrounding areas, including Picher.
Coleman’s success meant he would meet and become great friends with the likes of Bing Crosby. He soon decided that Miami should have a splendid theater of its own like those in Tulsa, which are no longer there.