It used to be that the banners hanging off lampposts this time of year in downtown Clearwater, Florida were all of the same theme, welcoming visitors who were in town for Phillies’ Spring Training.
But not any longer. We’ll see if the signs change but for now, all the banners point toward stars on a different stage – the nicely refurbished Capitol Theater.
As the Commemorative Program tells the story, the theater was originally built in 1921, heralded at the time as one of the most beautifully finished playhouses in the South.
The theater in recent years had taken on a very dated look, and we had no interest in attending events there.
Ruth Eckerd Hall in Clearwater was the gem of a venue to go for events, its interior as modern and inviting as its exterior.
Ruth, who passed away in 2006 was the wife of pharmacy magnate Jack Eckerd, and the couple became widely known for their philanthropy in and around their beloved home town of Clearwater.
Joshua Magdison lived in Clearwater in 1970 when he was assigned to Phillies Spring Training as a minor league umpire. Little did he imagine back then that he would one day become Chairman of Ruth Eckerd Hall, and help spearhead the Hall’s takeover and refurbishing of the downtown Capitol Theater. Working at lightning speed for a project of this nature, combining three old buildings into one, the Theater was shut down in April 2013 and opened its new doors in time for this year’s winter and spring seasons – home to nouveau faux snow birds like us.
So it was that we came to attend an intimate evening with Art Garfunkel at the Capitol last night.
Suffice it to say that the evening was intimate for two reasons. One was that the refurbished Capitol Theater preserved the original seating arrangement of the 1921 theater. Though pretty inside, the spacing was the same affordance as for physiognomies of nearly 100 years ago when patrons were – shall we say – more the height of Simon than Garfunkel.
So while the chairs, carpeting, and trimmings were posh, the lack of leg room putting our knee caps into the back of the chairs in front of us made for an intimacy we could have done without. The other intimacy of the night was the way that the breathy Garfunkel was limited to songs within the range of his still-healing vocal chords. My feelings were captured by this review of his performance in the Columbus Dispatch, the song/talking set last night being identical to the one in December.
Garfunkel will be performing at the Philadelphia Museum of Art on March 7 and March 8, and he is witty enough to work into his many talking interludes the fact that the museum might now be named after him. An intimate evening with Art Garfunkel was a reminder of what we once were, what we have lost and what we have gained, and how we continually work to re-invent ourselves in response to life’s vicissitudes.