In an e-mail to the Fitzgerald Theater—CCed to theater writers at the Star Tribune, the Pioneer Press, and the Daily Planet—Joe Landsberger of Czech and Slovak Sokol Minnesota challenges the Fitzgerald’s claim to be “St. Paul’s oldest surviving theater space.”
“I think you misstate,” writes Landsberger. “The CSPS (Sokol) Hall Theater was started in 1879 and has been in continuous use since then producing plays (though in the Czech language). Our original hall burned down in 1884 and was replaced in 1887. […] I would be glad to give you a tour if you would like documentation.”
Oh, snap! The Fitz staff are likely as surprised as I was—who knew there was a theater in the West 7th landmark best known for housing the Glockenspiel Restaurant? Will this settle it, or is there an even older theater hiding somewhere in the Capital City?
Update 10/3/2011: I contacted the Fitzgerald Theater managment asking for comment on the CSPS claim, and received this response via e-mail from Tara Schlosser at Minnesota Public Radio.
There are so many great historic treasures in St. Paul, and we are proud that the Fitzgerald Theater is among them.
The Fitzgerald Theater, originally known as the Shubert, was part of the professional stage show empire owned by the brothers Lee and J. J. Shubert. The CSPS Hall’s programming falls into a category that the CSPS itself describes as “community plays”. In addition, while the CSPS Hall is older than the Fitz, its current stage is actually younger – having been constructed during a 1917 remodeling.
Both the CSPS Hall and the Fitzgerald Theater bring a great deal of history and pride to the community, and both deserve to be celebrated.
So it seems that in the Fitzgerald’s claim to be “St. Paul’s oldest surviving theater space,” the word “space” denotes the specific stage area rather than the building—and there’s an implied “professional” in there somewhere to boot. We’re down to splitting hairs at this point; my guess is that the Czechs/Slovaks won’t be appeased, but I imagine we can all agree with Schlosser that both historic buildings do deserve to be celebrated.
Photo by Teresa Boardman