Theater ‘romanticizes’ experience

Reporter and Reporter

After debuting together in the 1912 film, “An Unseen Enemy,” sisters Lillian and Dorothy Gish, both Ohio natives, went on to become renowned silent film actresses.

It was in 1976 that Ralph Wolfe, a professor in the theatre and film department, dedicated the Lillian and Dorothy Gish Film Theater, housed in Hanna Hall, to them “as a way of commemorating their contributions to film,” said Brett Holden, the associate curator of the Gish Theater.

Dorothy, a comedic actress, had already died before the establishment of the Gish Theater, but when Wolfe approached Lillian, a dramatic actress, about naming the theater, she wanted it named for Dorothy as well, Holden said.

“She considered Dorothy to be the better actress,” he said.

A gallery space in the theater features many artifacts from Lillian. A rotation of many of Lillian’s letters, costumes, clothing and photos, as well as her American Film Institute Lifetime Achievement Award, are displayed there.

In the theater, the backs of the chairs feature the name of the person who dedicated money to the seat, Holden said. These range from local residents to University alumnus and even to famous people. Paul Newman and Bob Hope are just two of the famous names featured on the chairs, he said.

“It’s kind of fun just to look at the seat you’re sitting in to see who donated that to the theater,” Holden said.

The 35-year-old theater seats approximately 168 people and is open to University students, faculty, staff and even the surrounding community.

“The Gish Film Theater is a wonderful space for faculty, staff and students alike to come together on a weekly basis to screen film,” Holden said.

The Gish has three separate series a week: Tuesday is the popular film series; Thursday is the international film series; and the Sunday matinee is the silent film series.

“We try to provide a wide variety of offerings of theater,” Holden said.

Senior Quinn George, the president of the University Film Organization (UFO), has found the Gish to be beneficial to him as a student.

“It has a very classical theater setting,” George said. “I appreciate that because you romanticize that aspect of the theater experience.”

UFO uses the Gish for the screening of the films students produce during the 48 hour film festival, an event that occurs twice a semester, George said.

The organization will also be using it for the thirteenth annual Film and Media Festival, which is coming at the end of April.

As a film student, George has also attended the Gish Theater for classes.

One such class, Culture and the Moving Image, is tied with the Tuesday session and hosted by Cynthia Baron, an instructor in the theatre and film department.

“Our class is the core audience,” Baron said, “we’re always there.”

Baron works with the Culture Club, an organization of graduate students on campus, to come up with the programming, which features cult films, documentaries and independent films.

“You don’t see these movies at the multiplex,” Baron said. “It’s for people who love film and want to see something you can’t see at a regular theater.”

George also liked this aspect of being exposed to a film he wouldn’t normally see.

“It’s like purchasing a ticket and not knowing what you’re going to see,” he said.

Baron’s class begins on Tuesday at 6 p.m. and at 7:30 p.m., “Tuesdays at the Gish” begin.

While anyone is welcome to attend these films, Baron does have one rule.

“We ask for people to stay to watch through the credits,” she said. “You’re going as if you’re someone who is part of film culture.”

This allows the viewer to sit and reflect and let it sink in, Baron said.