STAGE LIGHTING: Jerry Chaplin sought advice from a University of Illinois theater department head and arranged for the purchase of the first of three lighting systems Parke Players will install in the next twenty two years.  A six channel voltage controlled dimmer pack and single scene control board were installed and six OLSEN fresnels and six ellipsoidal lighting fixtures were purchased.  A series of black pipe "T"s were fastened to the ceiling joists to create a primitive lighting grid above the stage.  The  new control system replaced a crude series of wall switches mounted on a panel on the south wall of the stage right wing. 
PROJECT DESIGN: Jerry Chaplin. 
CONSTRUCTION:  Gene Schrader, Jerry Chaplin, Dennis Dugger and Jim Barnes.
INTERCOM SYSTEM:  Indiana Bell donated four 1940 era  telephone operator's headsets with which to create a four station intercom network .  The system was powered by military surplus dry cell batteries and a was installed using standard four wire telephone cable. 
INSTALLATION: Jerry Chaplin, John Harmon and Larry Hoover.

MAKE-UP ROOM: New counters and make-up lights were installed in the make-up room.   New shelving was installed in the "prop room" (since called the tool room, but is now a hardware and supply storage area as well as the base for the audio support) 

DRESSING ROOMS:  Two dressing rooms were created during this time.  one on either side of the stage.
PROJECT DESIGN: Jerry Chaplin, Juliet Snowden. 
CONSTRUCTION: Jerry Chaplin. Larry Hoover, Harold Frye and Gene Schrader.

STAGE LIGHTING: The stage lighting system was replaced with a STAGE BRITE 12 channel / 2 scene voltage controlled lighting system and additional fixtures purchased.  A motorized drop truss (retractable light bar) was installed along with side and rear mounting truss. 8" ellipsoidal fixtures were added.   The new lighting was co-financed by the Chamber of Commerce 
PROJECT DESIGN: Frank Merrill, Jerry Chaplin, Richard Swaim. 
CONSTRUCTION: Richard Swaim, Larry Hoover, Charlie Sentman, Dennis Dugger.

LIGHTING BOOTH:   In 1970, the follow spot purchased by the Chamber of Commerce was placed on a single sheet of plywood at the east end of the existing "balcony" loft.   The only way to get to it was a simple catwalk made of 1x 6'' planks nailed to the rafters of the inner lobby below.   On one occasion, a follow spot operator stepped off of the plywood platform and put his leg through the floor/ceiling of the basically flimsy inner lobby structure,  , covering two cast members with dust and plaster.   In the spring of 1974, the sitting board of directors agreed to build the current 40' lighting balcony and create a permanent location for the follow spots, dimmer packs and stage lighting control board. 

PROJECT DESIGNER: Richard Swaim, Jerry Chaplain.
CONSTRUCTION: Richard Swaim, Jerry Chaplin, Larry Hoover, John Harmon and Gene Schrader.

COM SYSTEM:   Indiana Bell donated a multistage 110v power supply originally designed to power interoffice phone systems to power the theater com system installed in 1971.
CHANGEOVER / SYSTEM CONVERSION:  Indiana Bell employees Steve Scott and Dave Rogers 
SCENERY LOFTS:  One of the most significant improvements made to the RITZ during the 1970's was the creation of the two backstage scenery lofts.   These scenery lofts are located above the NE bathroom, tool room and make-up room on the east side and over the air handler, hallway and the "Jerome"  room on the west side of the stage area.  The west loft was designed primarily for the storage of major stage properties such as furniture and fixtures as well as staging and risers.  We  extended this loft into the attic area on the house side of the wall.  Exactly like the east wardrobe loft re-construction in 1993.

FOLLOW SPOT:  Parke Players purchased a second follow spot to use in conjunction with the one purchased by the Chamber of Commerce.   Very few improvements were made by Parke Players from 1977 to 1991. The folding steps were installed in the east scenery loft in 1984 after sitting around since 1976. The Chamber of Commerce built the apron over the orchestra pit in 1975 out of flimsy materials and rebuilt it in 1983 to the current design after Jean Kitrel beat the piano so hard during a RED LEHR show that one of her spiked heels and a piano truck caster went through the flooring used in the original construction.
On the heels of a profitable 1990 Melodrama and 1991 Spring show, Parke Players ventured into a new summer musical season with a sell out three day run of the Broadway smash hit, GREASE.   The new Parke Players Board of Directors and the Chamber Of Commerce decided to put the profits from the musical into the RITZ building.  A majority vote mandated that the money go to areas of the greatest need first and then the areas most visible to the public second. 
STAGE DOOR/LOADING DOCK/RAMP: The original stage door was literally falling out of the wall and the iron steps that led to it were a serious safety hazard that some performers refused to use.   Loading in and out of the stage area was also a problem and frequently not possible.   In the summer of 1991, several designs were considered among which were the moving of the back door to the concrete platform covering the old coal room instead of building a whole new loading dock.   Because of basement doors and gas meters, that plan was scuttled and the plans for a new wooden loading dock and double steel doors was decided upon.  Swaim Custom Homes was hired to build the dock and ramp as well as install the new double steel door assembly. 
PROJECT DESIGN: Andy Snowden, Richard Swaim. 
CONSTRUCTION: Swaim Custom Homes.

AUDITORIUM RENOVATION:  The auditorium had been painted in unfortunate pastel pink, blue and light green segments by some well meaning soul in the mid 1970's.  Research suggested returning the room to as close to its original color as possible.  The original dark green plaster is still visible behind one of the acoustic facades that form the auditorium's current shape so it was agreed that the room go back to dark green.  The new green is a couple of shades lighter because of the red seats and dark green proscenium curtain that we knew was on its last legs.   The final design called for the art deco treatment to be painted the same "Off  Broadway" gold as the proscenium arch and decorative stone arches in the inner lobby.  The trim was to be in flat black with gold accents.   The entire auditorium was painted except for the overhead baffles and the ceiling.  During the final stages of the auditorium redecoration, the proscenium curtain ripped at the leading edge and could no longer be opened or closed without tearing it further.   Terre Haute Tent and Awning came to repair it and reported that an advanced state of dry rot had made it impossible to repair the curtains and that they should be replaced.  The Chamber of Commerce and the Parke Players committed all of  their proceeds from the 1991 melodrama to pay for the complete new set of gold curtains found hanging today.

After the initial renovation of the auditorium, the inner and outer lobby were repainted and the lobby card displays built into the outer lobby walls were restored and rearranged in order to present a collection of old movie star photos.   The lobby card frame displays in the outer lobby were added in the 1940's and had been used up until the mid 1970's when they were painted the same color as the wall and covered over with paneling. The ticket booth had been covered with paneling that was scratched beyond any treatment other than a good painting.  It was painted to match the black w/gold trim that was used to trim the rest of the room. 
PROJECT DESIGN: Andy Snowden. 
HIRED LABOR: Don Crowley principle labor in the auditorium and Joe Shell to fabricate new sectioned panels and upper back wall repair.
ADDITIONAL HIRED LABOR:  Craig Lambadarious painted the pillars in the house and the geometric designs on the box office.
VOLUNTEER LABOR: Betty Allen and Susan Gates helped paint trim in the inner and outer lobby, Nancy Thomas helped paint the front doors and Andy Snowden repaired auditorium walls, painted half of the auditorium as well as all of the outer lobby walls, lobby card display trim and auditorium trim.

BORDER LIGHTS: The border lights were installed in 1992 after one of  Parke Players primary technical suppliers came up with three of the four 14' sections at a bargain price.  We purchased a new section to match the three 30 year old units and installed them in two 28 foot sections consisting of 56 lights.  Each of the two batons were divided into four separate control channels.   In order to operate this new system, a new power source was necessary to supply the 80 amps of electrical power needed to power these new border lights. 
SYSTEM DESIGN: Andy Snowden. 
INSTALLATION: Andy Snowden and Rob Wasson.

200 AMP SERVICE:   We consulted Warren Snyder, the resident Chamber of Commerce manager, and he agreed we should hire John Holcomb to install a new 200 amp service at the north west corner of the theater building to supply power to the new border lights.   The existing STAGE BRITE dimmer packs were moved to the stage area  and connected to the new service while a network of eight 20 amp wall dimmers was installed to control the separate channels of border lighting. The new border dimming network was connected to the existing breaker panel on the lighting balcony from which the STAGE BRITE dimmer packs were removed. 
HIRED LABOR: John & Dan Holcomb.
VOLUNTEER LABOR: Rob Wasson, Elizabeth Schrader and Andy Snowden.
The 1992 lighting improvements were the first in a series of technical and general building improvements to be made in the next three years.   Poor lighting had been a problem for most Parke Players productions since day one but we always did what we could with what we had.  The '92 lighting changes were a big help but we still had ongoing problems with the aging  STAGE BRITE system installed in 1973. 

The Chamber Of Commerce theater staf accidently left the STAGE BRITE system on for three weeks after a RED LEHR show in the mid 1980's.  This blew most of the control cards in the system as well as the power supply for the voltage control.  The system was never the same after that and by 1993 was costing us about $800.00 a year in failing components and still provided unstable performance.  We were advised that at twenty years of age, it had long since reached the end of the design limits for all but the highest end theatrical lighting control components.   There had been significant changes in theatrical lighting control design in the twenty years since our STAGE BRITE system was installed.  We felt it was time to take advantage of some of those advances. 

32 CHANNEL STAGE LIGHTING SYSTEM:   After considerable discussion, the old system was replaced with a 32 channel digitally controlled stage lighting control system. The system was designed to be installed in phases in order to offset the expense. The first phase included the purchase of an NSI 7232 control board and two of the four NSI DDS 9800 dimmer packs needed to supply 32 channels of lighting control.   At the end of the first phase, we had 16 channels of control, four more than ever before. The system had full memory capabilities from the initial installation that included 128 channel soft patching - the ability to control 128 separate dimmer channels (16 DDS 9800's) and 64 scene memory locations.  This new system made the secondary dimmer network for the border lights installed in 1992 unnecessary .  The individual 20 amp dimmers were removed for use elsewhere in the building and the border lights were patched into 8 channels of the new NSI system.  The new NSI system uses a simple shielded mic cable to transmit the micro-plex control signal from the control board on the lighting balcony to the dimmer packs located in the power room on stage right.  This equipment, while designed for night club use instead of for theatrical use,  is serving well compared to its predecessor. 
PROJECT DESIGN: Andy Snowden. 
INSTALLATION: Andy Snowden and Rob Wasson.
569-PLAY:  The Chamber Of  Commerce operated the Ritz as a cinema since they purchased the theater in 1969.  The Ritz had a single telephone line that Parke Players had used since its formation.  Because of an expanded theatrical season and book keeping problems , the board of directors decided to have a PARKE PLAYERS telephone line installed.  We were able to secure the number we desired for a nominal fee and the 569-PLAY line was up and running.  This made it possible for the public to make one way reservations or get information on upcoming shows as well as the production staff to do business without depriving the RITZ line of any accessibility.
PROJECT PRINCIPLES: Ameritech installed a line to the basement,  Andy Snowden and Callan Hale ran the interior lines and Snowden installed the phones. 

STAGE MANAGERS TECH PANEL:   There had never been a central switch panel for stage effects and communications anywhere in the stage area other than a couple of doorbell buttons screwed to the stage left wall.  Both the buttons and the wall were removed in the late seventies. An entire new panel with three switched 15 AMP circuits, a 15 volt DC power supply with remote switching capabilities, (for on stage effects such as doorbells, buzzers and phones.) and a fixed quad box all mounted on a panel installed to the right of the stage managers desk.  Also mounted on the new panel are an XLRm jack plate for the ClearCom and telephones to the outside RITZ line and the new Parke Players business line installed earlier in the season.

EAST ATTIC AREA CONSTRUCTION : In 1992, the Indiana State Fire Marshal informed Parke Players of a fire code prohibiting the storage of flammable materials in unfinished attic areas. We had uniforms and other costuming stored at the south end of the east attic area and other early stage props and equipment in the rest of the area.   After consulting with the Fire Marshal, we discussed the plans with the Chamber people and ordered the materials necessary to build a 50'x 7' wardrobe loft in the attic area from which we were previously ousted.  The project was started in September of 1993 and was completed in October.  The drywall was never finished out since we were not certain if it was going to be painted or not. The remaining eighteen feet of the existing attic area remained in its original unfinished condition.
PROJECT DESIGN: Andy Snowden. 
PRINCIPLE LABOR: Andy Snowden  Don Crowley and Mark Thompson (hired).
CONTRIBUTING LABOR: Keith Swaim, Tim Spurr.

THE WALLS CAME TUMBLIN' DOWN:   The plaster fell from the walls in the second floor property storage room during the 1993 melodrama. This was the second time plaster has fallen in that room but the first time hadn't caused anything more than a mess.  This time the wardrobe fixtures on the west wall came down dumping  the costumes all over the room.    In March of '94 the original plaster wall and clothes racks were removed and replaced with drywall and full perimeter shelving.  The costumes were all moved to the new wardrobe loft and the physical stage properties were placed on the new shelving in a far more organized fashion than had been the case in the past. The original wall lamps were replaced with standard AC wall plugs and new lighting was installed to replace the old fluorescent ceiling fixture that more or less worked.   The old rickety wooden shelf unit was removed and an island was centered in the room comprised of the four meat lockers covered with a sheet of plywood.   The J.R. Rumpza GM dealership in Clinton donated the metal shelving installed on the west wall and new wooden shelves were built on the north and east walls. 
PROJECT DESIGN AND LABOR: Buzz Wilson and Andy Snowden. 

EAST ATTIC AREA ACCESS:   Since its construction, the RITZ had never been able to offer a way from the back of the house to the stage area without first walking 75 feet through the house.   A problem that had caused many headaches as well as some awkward staging over the years.   For most of those years, the various production oriented individuals within Parke Players had discussed installing stairs leading from the south east stage wing to the east attic area.  They went as far as purchasing a folding attic steps assembly but never actually used them.  They were eventually installed  in the east scenery loft just outside the NE bathroom in 1984.   In November of 1994, the board of directors voted to purchase a set of circular stairs from a local construction site and hired  Swaim Custom Homes to install a set of circular stairs leading to the second floor wardrobe loft.  The new stairs were installed in a cove created in the south east stage wing.   By mid December the stairs were in but the unfinished area at the top of the stairs had no permanent lighting and was not fully floored. 
PROJECT DESIGN: Richard Swaim. 
CONSTRUCTION:  Swaim Custom Homes (hired).

NE BATHROOM RENOVATION:   The primary bathroom facility for the stage area had fallen into a shameful state that closely resembled that of a quarter beer hall over the years.   The Chamber of Commerce had built the original facility following the RITZ purchase in the summer of 1969 and installed the only sink convenient to the stage.  As a result, every paint brush and roller ever used to paint scenery after that time was cleaned in that bathroom sink!    The Chamber staff would leave  little notes asking us not to clean brushes in the sink but that was not realistic since the only running water backstage was there.   By the time it was removed during the remodeling, it was no fewer than ten different colors from more than 75 productions.  The toilet's flush mechanism had seized up from hard water so many times that it just kind of ran full time and the fixture had become a fashionable shade of rusty brown,  pretty gnarly.  After the '95 summer productions, the NE corner bathroom was gutted and completely remodeled. The walls were framed in and covered with drywall, the sink position within the room was changed and the ceiling was lowered.   All of the fixtures were replaced after a new vinyl floor covering was installed,  the walls were painted and a trendy be-flowered border was put up to give the place that homey look . 
PROJECT DESIGN: Andy Snowden and  Buzz Wilson. 
LABOR: Buzz Wilson Mick Mack & Andy Snowden.
PAINT PREPARATION AREA:   Those involved in the renovation of the NE bathroom vowed to tar and feather anyone caught with a paint brush in the new bathroom!   A designated paint preparation area would be needed that would not only be more convenient to use but more functional for the mixing and cleaning of the various latex paints used in our productions.  Someone had left an old cast iron flat bottom sink in the yard just west of the backstage door .   It was rescued and installed in the new paint prep area just outside the new bathroom  It turned out to be better suited for the filling and cleaning of roller pans and paint cans than anything we could have otherwise come up with .   A fifteen gallon water heater and faucet/sprayer unit were  installed along with a work light and peg board storage rack.   The coffin box paint cupboard was moved as close to the prep area as possible with a heavy duty paint shaker mounted in the bottom. The paint shaker was donated to Parke Players by Ferguson Lumber in 1995 and required us to have some parts fabricated for it. 
PROJECT DESIGN: Andy Snowden. 
LABOR: Andy Snowden & Mick Mack.

NE ATTIC FLOORING & WIRING:   After the completion of the circular stairs to the attic, there was only a four foot temporary catwalk across the rafters to the wardrobe loft. During the summer of  '96, a full perimeter floor was built and permanent lighting was installed with a three way switching network for the entire east attic area. There are plans to finish the area completely for use as a secondary make-up room in the future. 
PROJECT DESIGN & LABOR: Buzz Wilson & Andy Snowden. 

SOUND REINFORCEMENT SYSTEM:   The Chamber of Commerce had wanted to install an audio system in the RITZ for more than twenty years.   No one has mentioned it recently, but the matter came up frequently during the eighties.  As the Parke Players discovered, an audio system of the proper design and quality would not be inexpensive.

   In May of 1997, the board of directors voted to install a full range audio system in the auditorium.   The new system will be used as reinforcement for the stage during theatrical presentations as well as a fully functional PA system for use by speakers and musical acts of modest size.  The system includes two BOSE 802II speaker enclosures driven by a CROWN PB2 power amplifier with a MACKIE 1604VLZ sixteen channel house mixer and a built in 16X4  audio snake.  This simply means that sixteen separate sound sources can be combined or "mixed" from the stage into a stereo package and delivered to the audience by the amplifier/speaker network.   The "snake" is a large 100 foot long cable consisting of twenty smaller shielded cable sets that run to the back of the room under the floor.  The system includes two monitor channels as well as a backstage monitor system  During a play, the four stage microphones are bussed into the back stage monitor system in order to keep the cast current with the ongoing production.   Messages can be sent to these backstage locations if necessary from a microphone at the mixer or backstage.  A sub woofer was added to complete the system .   This component would enhance the low end of the audio spectrum and create a full range audio image. 

NEW HOUSE SEATING:   The 1935 era seating has been on the decline since the last reupholstering in 1978.  The '78 refurbishing was not done properly In that the seats were never actually dismantled as required to do the job adequately.   Within a year or two the steel strapping (with razor sharp teeth) that they used to bind the fabric to the seat back began pulling loose, , tearing into the clothing as well as the flesh of the local theater going public. 
After more than three years of planning and fund raising, the Chamber of Commerce raised the money and purchased four hundred and fifty comparatively new Irwin seats. The new seats were installed during the second week of November 1997 by Mr. Willard Dale of Billings Montana after a small group of Parke Players volunteers removed the old ones.   Half of the old seats went to the salvage yard and half of them went to Mecca, Indiana for installation in their new community center located in the old Mecca High School.   The new seats were installed in a slightly different layout than the old ones were in order to meet the current fire codes.  Wheel chair landings were created at the center ends of several of the rows and room was allowed for a permanent audio position to be located in the back of the house under the window to the inner lobby. The new layout has the rows of seats where there were previously isles in the last layout.  New lighting is required for the four isles since the standard end cap lighting on the new seats is not functional and is not installed for use.  Parke Players was one of several financial contributors to the seating fund but was the main force in the removal of the old seats and the reconditioning of the auditorium floor.    Some minor repairs were done to the auditorium floor while the seats were out and the new audio booth was planned to permanently house the audio system mix position.   Many volunteers, mostly Parke Players, helped with the arduous loading and unloading of the 1200 new seating components. Mr. Dale installed all 400 seats by himself as he is accustomed to doing on "small" jobs like the Ritz.  It took him four days. 

AUDIO BOOTH / HOUSE MIX POSITION:  The foundation for the new audio booth was laid during the seat replacement but the booth was not completed until February of 1998.   The balanced lines between the stage and the booth were completed and the collapsible desk built. The entire booth closes up to be no taller than the seats and serves as a center for aisle lighting power and control.   Storage for the com system and various stage mics is also located here.

NEW CARPETING &  AISLE LIGHTING:  New carpet was selected to replace the carpet that the Chamber Of Commerce had installed in the 1970's.   Safety regulations require that aisles in theaters be well defined which means that the auditorium had been operating contrary to safety regulations since the seats were replaced.   The old seats had marginal aisle lighting but at least it was in place.   The Parke County REMC donated the funds to purchase the LED based aisle guidance system.   So, during the last week of the twentieth century, the newly chosen carpet and the aisle guidance system was installed in the lobbies and auditorium of the Ritz.   The stairs leading from the house to the stage were also carpeted and fitted with the same LED technology that outlines the aisles.  A few weeks later, the stage border of the same technology was installed.  Unlike the rest of the LED systems, the stage border is designed to be seen from the stage only and provide a clear outline of the apron to keep people from careening over the edge to almost certain discomfort.  Four people had done so in the years leading up to the installation but it has so far worked as expected.  The aisle lighting components were made to order by Lighting & Electronic Design Incorporated of  Palmdale, California and Las Vegas, Nevada
INSTALLATION: Andy Snowden,  Jim Meece and John Dubelko.
CARPET  INSTALLATION:  Overpeck's Hardware.

LOBBY REDECORATION:  The slight cracks in the outer lobby ceiling were repaired  and the stark white outer and inner lobby walls were painted to a more historically agreeable color scheme in January of 2000.   The raised decorative treatment was re painted and the indirect florescent lighting was restored in the inner lobby.    VOLUNTEER LABOR:  Nancy & Randy Wiese,  Jeff  Cooper,  Jim Meece,  Andy Snowden,  Richard Swaim,  Carol West.

NEW STAGE MONITOR COMPONENTS:   There were shielding problems with the original 1977 Yamaha power amp that powered the stage monitor system from the beginning.   While still a strong component, it was prone to picking up and amplifying line noises.   In early 2000, a CROWN CE1000 was installed to replace the troublesome Yamaha.  A new two channel distribution network was created and a dual Speakon stage pocket installed for use during concert events.

RITZ CINEMA UPGRADE:  The manually operated retractable 18x28 foot cinema screen that the Chamber Of Commerce installed during the summer of 1969 began to show its age in the late eighties.  Over the years, duct tape was applied to keep the separating segments of the screen and the glass bead surface together.  This later graduated to gaffer's tape as the problem worsened.  From late 1996 to 2000, the screen became increasingly unstable as well as dingy and stained from continuous exposure over its thirty years.

In 2000, the screen was not hanging properly and would no longer fully retract making its replacement eminent.  The director / set designer for the 1999 production of  Barefoot In the Park pointed out that all of our lives would be considerably improved if the next screen were placed four or five feet down stage. That way we would not have to build sets that come apart to accommodate the screen for film exhibition.   Others agreed. So, in January 2001, a new Da-Lite 22.5' x 30' automated glass bead cinema screen was installed four and a half feet down stage of the old screen.  Unfortunately, the existing cinema audio speaker array was suspended over the old screen location in an unorthodox fashion that had the radial horn actually dragging into the picture.  The new screen would be in front of the old audio array and the audio would be negatively affected. The new screen is operated with a controlled circuit from the projection area and a second control box on the stage right wall.

Parke Players was now faced with replacing the speaker array and the single fifty five watt amplifier that powered it.   In their place was installed a pair of  KLIPSCH  full range cinema cabinets powered by a single channel  of a CROWN CE2000 amplifier.  One  cabinet in each of the 1940 era air returns that had been blended  into the walls on both sides of the stage with Art Deco treatment.   Since they faced the house at an angle,  it was logical placement for side fill cinema speakers.    An unorthodox  installation as well as cinema audio goes but it was the best option with the new non perforated screen. 

The existing Altec speaker array was dismantled and the radial horn mounted in the top of the proscenium arch to act as a center channel displaying the mid and high frequencies.   It is powered by a bridged Crown D45 and crossed over with an ALTEC   N1285 passive crossover.   The ALTEC twin 15'' speaker enclosure was added to the house audio system as a sub woofer through the Bose system controller.  twin 18'' cabinet was then installed and crossed over at 125 HZ  with an Ashley crossover and placed under the stage apron with the twin 15 cabinet to serve as a sub woofer for the cinema audio system.   That sub is powered by the remaining channel of the CE2000 and was suspected of  loosening plaster even at modest levels during set up calibration.   In 2008, the radial horn was replaced with a Peavey SSE 26 array powered by a QSC DCA 1622.  The cinema audio at the Ritz is at its finest and the new screen is bringing out the best in the 2000w Xenon projection lamp installed by the Chamber Of Commerce in 1990.  Overall enhancing the cinema experience for the citizens of  Parke County.
After fifty years, the famous Ritz clock had to be moved a couple of feet to the left to accommodate the slight enlargement of the coves for the new cinema speaker arrays. The public was concerned but eventually got over it.
SCREEN INSTALLATION:  Ben Hill,  Darrel Overpeck, Chris Willis.

     In 2002, Parke Players began the ambitious project of restoring the Art Deco marquee added to the theater by the Alexander-Carey theater chain after the second world war. The sign was modest by industry standards but quite a presentation for a small town.  It is comprised of two main 16 x 4 backlit menus that supported ten inch snap-on red plastic letters.  Red is the only color that anyone can remember though we have found a few green ones.   The green ones were likely used to highlight a given word or were brought in from another theater in the chain to temporarily replace missing red ones.   They could not have been inexpensive then and are certainly not now at $6.00-$9.00 each depending upon the vendor. 
  The impressive sign was first sand blasted to remove all of the paint that had ever been applied and then painted in the only red and yellow colors in which the new protective epoxy paint was available to us.  Not what we wanted as the red was indeed red. . Safety RED instead of the original deeper brown red from the late 1940s.   It faded and was repainted a few years later in 2007. The outrageous (safety) yellow wasn't so bad and faded nicely.  There was also not near the amount of yellow. Our restored marquee stopped traffic during the day and at night, , a sight to behold.
 The marquee supports 650 11watt incandescent lamps on four chase circuits and a four leg red neon nose.   Underneath is a stainless steel porch ceiling with fourteen down lights.  The porch ceiling was originally made of painted galvanized steel with sixteen recessed light fixtures.  Standard light bulbs now replaced with small floods.  Stainless steel was still hard to come by when the marquee was built and its use in the original design is mostly speculative.  The original chase clock was a motorized cam driven device typical of the day.   It was replaced with a digital clock costing almost twice what the entire sign did in 1948.   While much more versatile, (according to the gentleman that designed and built it) we have the chase sequence set in one direction just as the original, profoundly analog, clock was.   The designer maintains it is now chasing backward and offered to program it correctly but there is likely not a living soul on the planet that would know the difference.   Currently we are addressing the problem of menu panels having originally been made of milk glass and the modern rarity of same.  Plexiglas panels are holding up for now until a solution can be determined. 

In 2003, the final plans for the complete renovation of the lobbies, restrooms and house were submitted by the Indianapolis architectural firm of Jacobs Pannicke .   Totally new restroom facilities, concession area and cinema office were built in the space that had been occupied by tenants since the theater was built in 1912.   For decades, the space was occupied by two tenants in small store front spaces but in the last twenty years, the two spaces were joined and occupied by a single tenant.   A long time tenant that was sad to have to move but then was very pleased with the new office space they had purchased on the square.   They were very supportive of our improvement project.  For further information and photographs of the renovation of the Ritz Theater, click on the buttons in the left margin.

In 2009, the six Neutrik speaker jacks mounted in three stage pockets installed  for the stage monitor system were all wired to be powered by three QSC stereo amplifiers. 
A six channel shielded multi-cable was installed to establish a signal path from a patch bay in the tech booth to the monitor amps.   All greatly expanding the versatility of the stage audio capabilities for both theatrical and music presentations.

STAGE LIGHTING UPGRADE: In 2010, the second phase of the stage lighting control system was installed.  This required the installation of a second 200amp power service to power the upgrade.  Eventually the two services can be replaced by a single 400 amp single or three phase service if the considerable cost can be covered.  Strand lighting was badgered (by demand) into building one hundred or so of the CD80 24x2.4khz dimmer packs that they had recently discontinued from their product line.  We were scrambling to design our second phase of stage lighting around the loss of the very versatile dimmers when our Strand vendor called with the great news.   We were able to add 24 new circuits to offset the loss of the aging NSI 9800 dimmer packs and power two new side fill trusses installed on the outer edges of the stage apron.  Fiat Lux!  

DIGITAL MOTION PICTURE PROJECTION CONVERSION: In November of 2012, Parke Players was forced to replace the 65 year old Simplex XL 35mm film projector with a new Christie CP2210 DLP digital projector with Dolby surround sound.  "Forced" sounds harsh but the reality of progress was setting in as the various parties involved in the often contentious negotiations between the motion picture industry and the cinema owners had come to an agreement regarding the terms that would benefit both parties equally. Or as equal as anything gets in entertainment.   The studios stood to gain tens or even hundreds of millions of dollars by eliminating the high cost of raw film and its supporting expenses on the front end of a production and the expensive 35mm prints on the back end of a film's production.  While the exhibitor had to foot the bill for a new $70,000.00+ projector.  That is a LOT of popcorn and soft drinks since 90% of a theater's bottom line comes from the concession counter!   A set of agreements were reached wherein the exhibitors received "Virtual Print fees" to help offset their investment.  
      As luck would have it, the Ritz was just ending our year long centennial celebration and fund raising campaign when the new projector was purchased. Hollywood had announced the planned end of film in 2013 so we just made it under the wire! Our first digital exhibition was a sold out premier showing of The Twilight saga: Breaking Dawn Part II.   The end of one era and the beginning of another. The Ritz has been showing motion pictures continuously since 1929 and serves one of, if not the smallest community of any first run cinema in the state of Indiana.     
PROJECT DESIGN AND INSTALLATION:  Sonic Equipment- Taylor Crawford, Terry Simcox

No one can deny the positive impact that Parke Players has had on this wonderful old building that the Chamber Of Commerce had the foresight to purchase in 1969.   It is difficult to determine what would have happened to the Ritz had things not have gone as they did that spring in 1969.      Small town movie houses were closing all over the country during the late sixties and the Carey - Alexander theater chain was no exception.  The small chain was comprised of several small town indoor and drive-in theaters,  one of which was the Ritz.   The studios made it tough and often impossible for small exhibitors to compete by restricting their major releases to screens with daily / multiple schedules and strong gates for the first six months of their release.   By 2001 they had relaxed considerably and the small cinema exhibitor to whom Parke Players leased their screen was able to bring in major titles within six weeks of their release and sometimes sooner. 
   In 2004, that company went out of business and Parke Players assumed the operation of the cinema.  Parke Players is committed to continuing the improvement of their home of more than twenty five years.   We look forward to producing quality amateur theater as well as provide a well equipped venue for other forms of live entertainment for many years to come.  The building's air of nostalgia and superior acoustics make it an attractive location for the production of any entertainment endeavor of moderate size.   In recent years there have been six professional concerts featuring four prominent Nashville artists.   Each was genuinely impressed and expressed enthusiasm for performing in such an intimate and acoustically pleasing room.  A restored Ritz is a rare bit of luck for us all.

       Improvements to The Ritz Theater
 Implemented by Parke Players since 1971
  Parke Players began restoring the stage area following their first production in the fall of 1971 in a joint effort with the Rockville Chamber of Commerce,  the new owners of the theater.  What follows is a detailed year by year account of the massive undertaking.  Parke Players purchased the theater from the Chamber of Commerce in 1998.   In 2002,  a bequest from the Paul Mull estate that funded the entire 2003 restoration project restored the 1946 era Art Deco marquee. The rest is described below.
 ©2015 - Andy Snowden, webmaster. Logo owned by Parke Players, Inc.