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Book review: The Golden Age of Indianapolis Theaters


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The Golden Age of Indianapolis Theaters

By Howard Caldwell

Indiana University Press Quarry Books, cloth $29.95

Howard Caldwell's romp through personal memory and reminiscences of others makes 150 years of comings and goings of multiple Indianapolis theater buildings a personal story. A treasure trove of photographs and illustrative memorabilia throughout nineteen chapters is indeed "worth the price of the book," as trumpeted on the book jacket by long-time theatre critic Marion Garmel. With the opening of The Metropolitan in 1858 began the parade of touring companies in structures specifically built for them. Caldwell highlights events at each, adds reviews and personal comments by contemporaries and comments upon his findings. He's chatty, to the degree one wants to interrupt to ask, "Exactly where was The Metropolitan located and what happened to the structure?" Without an index it's not possible to note if the story continues deeper into the book and by the time one has moved on, there are even more questions about historical precision. The final chapter reviews the four surviving theater buildings — The Murat, Circle, Indiana and Walker — and also reminds us that a building alone does not stand with longevity. Civic Theater, "created in 1914 as the Little Theater...has a remarkable history that has included a who's who in Indianapolis--on and off stage." One wishes the book included a chronology of the buildings mentioned, to supplement the fine Bibliography that concludes the book. Caldwell is a retired Indianapolis TV newscaster whose love of live theatre and films witnessed in beautiful structures is apparent throughout. —Rita Kohn


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