The old Ohio Theatre, built in 1921, looked stark against a fading sun. It's red brick facade and inlaid Greek columns were hidden behind scaffolding. But inside and out, signs of its former glory stood out. The marquee, a huge stage, the Art Deco decorations, an elegant pipe organ, ghosts of movies past.
I hadn't been to the Ohio Theatre on Lagrange Street since leaving Toledo in 1985. I remember it as being in the once-vibrant Polish neighborhood of the city, a great gathering place. The theater is now being restored under the able management of United North, a nonprofit organization. It seems to have great partners and devoted volunteers. I was at the theater with my friend Teddy to take in Toledo's first International Film Festival.
I learned that the city and county are helping restore the historic theater, that they have been awarded grants. that local officials and long-time community leaders are working to preserve the building and revitalize the community around it. I learned about the Welcome Toledo-Lucas County Initiative (through a young Americorps volunteer) to build a diverse community that welcomes immigrants and migrants, old-timers and newcomers. I said hello to Peter Uvagi and his associates. He and Tom Glazer informed the audience of about 100 fans that a new grant would support upgrading the equipment and screen. I talked to Jan Dzernik, the young man who is the theater manager, the only staff person and an enthusiastic promoter, also supported by a grant.
The films were great! What a positive way to get people into the theater and to promote the cause. I love International Film Festivals, went to as many as possible in DC, San Miguel, Tampa, wherever I live, wherever I travel. I've learned so much about cultural diversity, rich and varied cultural traditions, folkways, and different points of view through watching films from around the world. They open a whole new universe, like the Voyager spacecrafts exploring the boundaries of our solar system. How great that Toledo through the Ohio Theatre are joining in these cultural adventures!
Teddy and I saw two poignant movies: Amreeka and Sin Nombre, both good films if rather sad.
The Ohio Theatre pulsed with excitment and appreciation. I thought it might be great to have some film and discussion programs after the movies. I look forward to seeing the rest of the films this year, and to welcoming the next International Film Festival.
For more information:
3114 Lagrange St, Toledo, 43608
Thanks to Al Habib Market for offering free food at the screenings.