Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater, Menomonie, Wisconsin
--Select a photo to see the larger version--
All photos © 2001 by Carol Yoho -- copying prohibited

Be sure to also visit the
official
Mabel Tainter Theater site!

The building...
detail of stone carving
Mabel's portrait hangs in the ladies' gallery
main entrance
opened front door
Mabel Tainter Theater buildingThe Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater was built in 1889 in Menomonie, WI by Captain and Mrs. Andrew Tainter in memory of their daughter, Mabel, who died in 1886 at the age of 19. No expense was spared in the construction of this Victorian structure.
   
Upon completion, the building was donated to the people of Menomonie, and is currently run as a nonprofit agency.
    The facilities are booked for performances and social functions. Tours are available.

The house....

house, stage right
house, stage left
exit light and stenciling
box seats, stage right
handcarved lattice and side gallery
Steere and Turner organ has 1,597 pipes
front edge of the balcony. Note modisy drapery.
overview of house seating
While the structure is fortress-like outside (made of local sandstone), the interior is Moorish in design--light, rich and fanciful--and made of the finest materials: Turkish rugs, Mexican onyx, silk draperies, terra cotta moquette carpet, Mecca draperies, and hand-carved lattice work. Opulence surfaces are not wallpapered, but are stenciled. The house seats 313 individuals in a wide but shallow space. No seat is very far from the stage. Box seats at the upper front of the house were reserved for the local notables: the Tainter's, the Knapp's and the Stout's. Positioning was more for the benefit of being seen than for a clear view of the stage.

Lighting
R
ealizing that electrical lighting might be a passing fad, Captain Tainter still included wiring for electric lights, as well as more traditional gas fixtures. Electricity won out.
light pattern in ceiling areaarched in lightsedge of balcony in lights

Seating
T
he opera seats are original. Captain Tainter was not pleased with chairs and bench seating he was shown by the seat vendor. Tainter demanded and received top-of-the-line New York City-style opera seats. Seats come in four sizes: S, M, L, and XL as shown on a current seating chart. (The men's hat hooks have been removed from the underside of the seats.)

oak opera seatsMax tries a seat

Backstage
B
ackstage has traditional light board, wings, fly gallery (containing 5 original backdrops painted on linen), 3 counterbalanced trap doors in the stage floor, dressing rooms, lighting bars, and various cables, pulleys and weights. Archived materials on display in the basement of the building include a rain machine and a thunder-maker.

view from the stageoverhead, backstageoriginal lighting switches

Details

The glory of this theater
is in its detailing: the hand-carved woodwork, the stained glass and leaded glass windows, the rich fabrics, intricate stenciling and gleaming brass. Of special note is a rare fully-restored Steere and Turner tracker pipe organ with 1,597 pipes. Originally water-powered, the organ has been modified to run on electricity.
detail of Andrew Tainter stained glass windowleaded glass window in front door of facilitydetail of drapes and carved woodworkSteer and Turner pipe organ

Historical Collection
display of historical theatre actdisplay of projectors and magic lantern slides From the beginning the theater was a road house for professional touring companies and lecturers (like Capt. Roald Amundsen and Helen Keller/Anne Sullivan). Later it was used as facility for high school and other local productions. The basement of the theater includes historical displays including famous acts which have performed at the theater and old projection equipment and magic lantern slides.

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Links of interest concerning the Mabel Tainter Memorial Theater:
Mabel Tainter Memorial
Paul Stauffacher wrote about Mabel Tainter Memorial, but the link is no longer active

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All photos © 2001 by Carol Yoho
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