Thursday of last week, as mentioned in the previous post, I had the privilege of photographing The Lucent Dossier Experience at The Palace Theatre. Beyond their stellar performance, one of the most amazing experiences happened about two hours before the curtain call.
The Palace Theatre was constructed in 1911 and originally named the Orpheum Theatre. Building on the success of the Orpheum Vaudeville Circuit from the late 1800s the stage has been the platform to artists ranging from the Marx Brothers to Houdini. It's easy to forget that Broadway once was very important in Los Angeles as well as New York. Seems like an appropriate and meaningful stage to house the artist's talent and efforts of Lucent Dossier to bring some meaning back to LA's Broadway.
As an artist, I always seek out opportunities for meaning and purpose in what I do. I've already enjoyed shooting and getting to know the lovely individuals in Lucent Dossier over the years. In such a fitting venue with a sold out house, it only raised the expectations for what they could bring to the audience. The did not disappoint.
It's certainly not everyday you get to run around and play in a 100 year old theatre. Arriving early prior to shooting Lucent Dossier's show I found myself mystified below the house and under the stage. As I was setting up my gear I slowly discovered the maze of catacombs beneath The Palace Theatre. I found myself on a quick adventure exploring around through the ancient nooks and crannies below Broadway Street in Downtown Los Angeles. Here are some photographs from the different compartments from below the century old theatre.
(you can click on each image for a larger version)
One of the first rooms I came across contained a small door that eventually would lead to a much larger world. Note the antique sliding door on the right.
Deeper in you find yourself suddenly surrounded by what appears a cemetery containing old theatre chairs stacked upon themselves mass grave style.
Following the lovely array of colors and textures will lead you to this room. One of my favorites actually. The purple skylight is part of the sidewalk of the street above. There's a flicker of purple light as the public walk about above, likely not knowing there's a whole world beneath their feet.
Following the above walkway leads you to....
A room with apparently no escape as the stairway leads to a sealed wall. Luckily somebody punched a hole through a wall. The nook there is apparently an old burn furnace as Westley explained to me.
Above is yet another walkway/skylight with a old broken crank lift to the surface to get supplies to the theatre back in the day. I imagine this might have been an old dressing room as well.
Remnants of a recent effort to paint up the surfaces below the theatre.
More stacks and piles of chair bits.
Three doors in a hallway with a sloped ceiling.
A massive stack of chair ends.
This is the large "air conditioner" downstairs. I'll tell you it's bloody hot down there, but standing in front of the mouth of this metal dragon freezes your face pretty quickly.
A small cubby of a room. I don't really know what it was used for, but you can hear a lot through that hole in the wall. Maybe a call box or something for the performers downstairs?
A still functioning crank lift to the stage. Note the firehose. Fire safety in old theatres was notoriously bad. The Palace was ahead of the game at had one of the first sprinkler systems built in Los Angeles.
One of several functioning automatic closing slide doors. Controlled by weight and pulley.
Once in exploration mode, I decided to hike up several stories to this area above and behind the stage. These are stacks of old pulleys uses for backdrops, curtains, and maybe even performers back in the day.
The stairway that led me up is next to a large door that really peaked my curiosity.
I believe this pipe upstairs is part of the sprinkler system inside the theatre. Not terribly sure.
I stumbled across yet another sealed door and window that again made wonder just what was outside and how to get there.
Eventually I found a way. Much to my surprise, it appears as if the building next to The Palace was built smashed up against these fire exits.
This building is behind the Palace. The view from these windows is just a solid wall about 20 feet away.
I found myself back up to the surface of Downtown Los Angeles just prior to photographing the Lucent Dossier show. After exploring the Palace Theatre and it's treasures I began to look nearby at the architecture surrounding me. You can quickly forget that many of the businesses and apartments around this area do indeed have some historical significance in terms of what Los Angeles once was and how the entertainment industry spawned from belly of this "hood".
Not surprising however, was that this old theatre reminded me of the old stages found on studio lots throughout Southern California, which are about as old. Strangely I found myself on such a lot yesterday. Spent a few minutes wondering what it was like to make movies 80 or so years ago. Must have been insane fun in that new frontier.