A stiff wind or the huff and puff of the big bad wolf could have done the job at this point, but instead the wrecking ball took a few easy swipes at the historic Town Theatre in Highland, IN this week. A once-promising rehabilitation effort was, over a prolonged period of too many years, laid to rest under a pile of broken bricks and assorted rubble.
The theatre, shuttered for many years after the original owners closed the doors and walked away from it all, had been proposed by a local redevelopment committee as the anchor of a proposed ‘Arts District’. After a flurry of enthusiasm at the onset of the project (“Save the Town!!”, they said) a groundswell of negativity over the role of local government in operating such a venue quickly evolved into trash-talking and misinformation fueled by those who had other ideas for the theatre…ideas which have yet to be shared.
What role does local government have in stimulating the economy of the community? That’s a question which plagued several of the local politicians who, in this case, couldn’t seem to make up their minds until the very last minute. By the time the decision to demo the theatre was made, even many of those who once supported the project had grown weary from the in-fighting.
So, the No’s won and the theatre hit the deck. But what was really “won”? A vacant lot with a ‘For Sale’ stuck in the ground? A landing site for worn tires and discarded mattresses? Maybe a developer might come along and build a strip mall with a dry cleaner, smoke shop and nail salon? Nice…just what we need.
In an age where retailers are closing their doors faster than people can exit through them, the reasons for people to leave their homes and spend money are dwindling. Drinking, eating and drinking (not necessarily in that order) are a few options available to local NW Indiana residents. But how much can people really drink or eat…or drink? I suppose the upside to those activities is that eventually we’ll all need new, and larger-sized clothes to accommodate our ever-expanding waistlines…clothes which we are apparently ordering online more than ever.
With the advent of the 56-inch television screen, going out to a movie seems to be a thing of the past. The screens on today’s televisions are crystal clear, the sound is amazing and there’s no “loud nick” wrestling with a box of Milk Duds to aggravate the movie watcher. Additionally, it’s just so easy to hit the ‘pause’ button to head to the kitchen to fetch something more to drink, eat or drink. I would think, however, if some high-quality 'live' entertainment were to be offered for a reasonable ticket price, people might come out of their igloos on occasion.
I certainly have a bias toward ‘live’ entertainment, as The Tomfoolery Show (comedy-based variety) has been a passion of mine for several years now. To have a "home" venue to stage our events on a regular basis is a dream which, in the case of the Town Theatre, will go forever unrealized. Although there was a standing offer by Tomfoolery to periodically lease the venue to stage events, help to solicit sponsors from local businesses and even manage the theatre for workman’s wages, those ideas fell upon deaf ears. As time passed, the theatre was deemed “beyond repair” and the only option was to destroy what was left of it. All I can think of at this point is this; the reason buildings progress to being “beyond repair” is that they aren’t repaired when it is still an option.
I’m not sure what victory was achieved here, unless the prize is a pile of bricks. In that case, congratulations…you won!