Book review: The Golden Age of Indianapolis Theaters


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