Time Machine: Dinner and theater in a single cease in the course of the Nineteen Seventies


This January 1977 photograph exhibits the swimming pool that was within the basement of the Roosevelt Resort in Cedar Rapids. It was subsequent door to the dinner theater that operated there within the Nineteen Seventies. Home windows behind the pool regarded into the dinner theater, and theatergoers needed to stroll across the pool to achieve the theater. (Gazette archives)

Dinner theater — eating and watching a play when you’re doing that — grew to become a preferred outing within the Nineteen Seventies.

The primary dinner theater within the metro space was on the Longbranch Supper Membership in Marion, the place the nonprofit Olde Barn Gamers carried out “Tartuffe” in 1974.

A pool and a play

The following dinner theater was the Fly-By-Evening Gamers, which began within the former Picadilly Tavern house within the basement of the Roosevelt Resort within the spring of 1976.

After disposing of previous mattresses, cleansing and portray and turning a males’s room right into a dressing room, “Transfer Over Mrs. Markham” was carried out Dec. 6. It went effectively sufficient that the Roosevelt spent $70,000 renovating and constructing the house, which was situated underneath its parking storage.

The brand new house had a 23-by-17-foot stage, two dressing rooms, prop storage, an workplace, and areas for set building and rehearsals.
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It additionally had the lodge’s giant swimming pool subsequent door, with giant home windows that allowed swimmers to look into the dinner theater.

Dick Hardiman, a former disc jockey who engineered the primary St, Patrick’s Day parade in Cedar Rapids in 1976, additionally headed the Fly By Evening Theater, a dinner theater that operated within the basement of the Roosevelt Resort within the Nineteen Seventies. (Gazette archives)

The troupe, managed by Dick Hardiman, leased the efficiency house, employed actors and used the Roosevelt’s liquor license. Income got here from each field workplace receipts and liquor gross sales.

“It’s the one dinner theater on the planet that has a mix bar and lightweight sales space, with a pool subsequent door, and is underneath a parking ramp,” Hardiman instructed The Gazette.

Seating as much as 95 patrons, the dinner theater offered an intimate ambiance that allowed viewers members to drink or smoke whereas watching a efficiency.

“We’ve a tough core of people that come to see each present,” Hardiman stated. “Some folks come to see a specific present two or thrice.”


How did the world’s two dinner theaters have an effect on group theater performances?

Joe Saxe, director of Cedar Rapids Group Theatre, thought there was sufficient viewers to help all of the theaters, saying “any theater stimulates one other theater.”

The Group Theatre — now known as Theatre Cedar Rapids — and the dinner theaters cooperated in selecting their performs so there was no duplication.

Discovering sufficient actors to cowl all of the venues was a problem, although, with actors from Heart Level, Central Metropolis and Manchester becoming a member of these from Cedar Rapids and Marion.

Most of the actors within the Fly-By-Evening troupe doubled as wait employees “so that they don’t starve whereas they star,” producer Pam Gearhart stated. It wasn’t uncommon for patrons to be served drinks throughout intermission by actors in costume.

After three years and about 33 productions, Fly-By-Evening closed it doorways Might 27, 1979, with Hardiman citing monetary losses

Quick Circuit Theatre

Seven months later, an improvisational group known as Quick Circuit Theatre arrange store within the house, making the most of gear left behind by the dinner theater firm.

Authentic materials by seasoned performers J. David Carey, Tim Boyle, Richard Barker and Nina Weideman centered on satirical sketches.

Underneath new administration in 1980, the lodge modified the lower-level lounge to “The Residence,” that includes reside jazz in the course of the week and the Quick Circuit Theatre on weekends.

After a couple of 12 months, the previous house owners of the theater gear got here to select it up, and Quick Circuit got here to an finish.

The Longbranch theater lasted till 1980, performing the musical “Shenandoah” in July and August.

Different productions

The Roosevelt’s basement theater was utilized in January 1981 when the Cedar Rapids Group Theatre, the Roosevelt and Coe Faculty placed on a musical revue, “Beginning Right here, Beginning Now.”

The partnership staged “Facet By Facet by Sondheim” in December.

Yet another manufacturing was staged in March 1983 when the group theater’s Studio Theatre produced Lanford Wilson’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play “Talley’s Folly.”

Retirement residing

After that, the lodge’s conversion from lodge to retirement housing took priority.

The Roosevelt was offered to Roosevelt Restricted Partnership in 1984, decreasing the variety of lodge rooms from 330 to fewer than 100. That effort stalled in 1985 when the developer backed out and the lodge went into foreclosures.

By 1988, it reopened underneath the administration of Larken Inc. after a $1 million refurbishing. Two years later the Roosevelt was offered to a California firm, American Realty Constructors, house owners of senior citizen housing amenities. Two flooring already had been transformed to assisted residing residences for seniors.

The Roosevelt was offered in 1991 to Historic Housing for Seniors III, of Berkeley, Calif., for $6 million. A 12 months later, 45 % of the constructing had been transformed to residences.

The switchover to residences had been accomplished by 2008, when the flood compelled the constructing to shut. After $14.4 million was spent to create 96 residences and ground-floor business house, it reopened in 2010.
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The parking ramp was demolished in 2011.

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Actors Gary Goldstein and Debra Petersen seem within the roles of Matt Friedman and Sally Talley in “Talley’s Folly,” a March 1983 Cedar Rapids Group Theatre Studio manufacturing within the theater on the decrease stage of the Roosevelt Resort. (Gazette archives)

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