Rivoli fundraiser to be held Sat. at Athenaeum 

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  • The Rivoli plays the 1929 talking picture 'Marriage Playground.'
For every Vogue and Circle Theatre — vintage movie houses successfully repurposed for new lives — there is a Rivoli, which became a porn theatre (and occasional repertory house) while others were converted for more sustainable use. But a small crew of Eastside residents are working to restore the Rivoli to some manner of its former glory — whether by revamping the facade and streetscape, or by mounting a full restoration of the entire structure, which remains intact despite years of water damage.

The Rivoli Center for the Performing Arts, Inc., the non-profit organization which acquired the theater in 2007 with the goal of both rehabilitating the Rivoli and adapting it for reuse as a community cultural center, will hold its second annual Rivoli Revue on Saturday at the Athenaeum Theatre. The event is as much a consciousness-raiser as a fundraiser, and exact use of funds will depend on amount of funds collected, according to Center treasurer, Jeremy Stephens, who tells NUVO that his organization is, “in the grand scheme of things, in the beginning of restoration efforts.”

Stephens explains: “For example, if we raise enough money to restore the marquee, we will undertake that project; however, if we raise some lesser amount, then we will likely put the funds towards restoring the facade to its original brick or a similar project that is smaller in scope.”

Plans for marquee and facade restoration are available on the organization's website, rivolitheatre.org, including the conclusions of a 2003 Ball State design charette, which include proposals for the removal of a rooftop marquee that wasn't part of the building's original design and installation of colorful lighting, flags, trees, an IndyGo stop and an inlaid crosswalk. The charette document also notes the quality of the building's original construction materials: “Built by Universal Studios in 1927, the theater was constructed in Spanish mission style of the finest materials available, including fine sweet gum woodworking, leaded glass windows with copper window sashes and solid brass door fittings. The floors, inside as well as outside, were made of Georgia white marble.”

A sketch of proposed streetscape improvements prepared by Ball State in 2003.
  • A sketch of proposed streetscape improvements prepared by Ball State in 2003.

Those materials haven't all survived, but Stephens contends that the structure is still worth saving, both for its historical relevance — entered on the National Register of Historic Places in 2004, the Rivoli was the largest single-level theater in Indianapolis when built — and its potential for sparking neighborhood development. “The cost to restore the theatre is minimal compared to the anticipated economic benefit that re-opening the theatre will have to the 10th Street corridor,” he notes.

The rehabilitation process has been a gradual one: In 2009, The Indianapolis Star published an article similar to this one concerning the board's efforts, noting that restoration efforts had first begun in 2004, when the theater was acquired by a consortium of neighborhood groups that ultimately did little toward the cause of restoration. Center chairman Mark Dollase told The Star then that nearly $1 million would be required to replace the roof alone.

Stephens says the organization is still in the board development and fund raising stage, with the first priority being the stabilization of the roof to prevent further deterioration. “Following the stabilization of the building, it is the board's intent to completely restore the theatre with the ultimate end-use being a multi-faceted arts center allowing use for concerts, plays / dramatic productions and classic movies,” he says. “Currently, the board is closer to the beginning than the end of the project; however, the board itself is comprised of dedicated members with an unparalleled passion for the building and the arts as a whole.”

Performers at the Rivoli Revue will include musicians Lindsay Crane, Victoria Chavez and Jessica Kelley, Dance Kaleidoscope member Mariel Greenlee and burlesque ensemble Creme de les Femmes. WZPL host Nikki Reed will emcee. Tickets are $15, with a silent auction running from 6 p.m. and the show beginning at 7 p.m.

The Rivoli in 2011.
  • The Rivoli in 2011.

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Scott Shoger staggered up to NUVO's door one summer afternoon, a little drunk, poor and crazy-haired, muttering about future Mayor Ballard. He was taken in, hosed down, given NUVO-emblazoned clothes to wear and allowed to work in exchange for food and bylines. Refusing to leave the premises, he was hired on as... more

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