For 125 years, the Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts has inspired actors and theatregoers to the elegant world of theatre.
Menomonie, WI (WEAU) - This week William Shakespeare celebrated his 450th birthday. In honor of his legacy CNN paid tribute to 15 theatres across the world and one of them is in our area.
The Mabel Theatre has existed in the heart of downtown Menomonie for 125 years. It's beautiful and breathtaking atmosphere is one you have to see to believe.
"It is a step back in time,” says Amy Reise, Executive Director of the Mabel Theatre.
The Mabel Tainter Center for the Arts Landmark Theater is where every detail is of Richardsonian Romanesque style.
"Andrew and Bertha Tainter lost their daughter Mabel back in the late 1800's. They built this as a memorial to her,” explained Cindy Quilling, Board of Directors President.
"They started building the facility 125 years ago in 1889 and you walk in the door you're instantly transported. It's the innate stenciling. It's the beautiful butterfly curtain, it's the intimacy of the stage,” says Amy Reise, The Executive Director of the Mabel Theatre.
Andrew Mercil, Menomonie City Council president says, "The second best box seat where the guest of the Tainters would sit which is on the opposite side of the theatre. This is the second place to be seen when you wanted to be seen at the Mabel."
Mercil says he grew up performing onstage, "We've done shows here my entire life and what's great about that is to perform in a space that now has been rated one of the 15 best theatres in the world.”
The Menomonie Theatre Guild is currently working at the Mabel on their production of ‘Lost in Yonkers,’ and they’ve added a taste of history as well to this iconic building.
“One of the factors that saved the building from potential demolition in the late 1950's was a kitchen table meeting in December of 1958 at the home of John Russell. That night, several concerned citizens formed Menomonie Theater Guild. Since then we've done close to 200 productions in the theater. Many in this community have had second 'careers' as amateur actors on that stage,” explains Blaine Halverson, Menomonie Theatre Guild.
On top of its beauty, it’s continuing to inspire actors like 75-year-old Jeanne Cussrow-Larson, who got “bitten by the theatre bug.”
She says, “I went down when they were auditioning for Harvey to join the crew to do the sets and the director asked if I wanted to read for it.”
Little did this Knapp native know that although her acting career began at the age of 42, would result in over 60 shows at a number of theatres by the age of 75.
“The Mabel was my first experience with theatre and it was fascinating as far as being of the crew and the cast and just working in that atmosphere. It was neat. It was really really neat,” she adds.
It's an atmosphere that brings alive every detail.
"I think it was the 70's the donations for certain amounts would allow you to have your name behind one of two of the chairs,” explains Cindy Quilling, the President of the Board of Directors.
"It's not a dusty theatre. It's not like any theatre I set foot in in my life. That is why it’s one of the top 15 most spectacular theatres in the world,” says Reise.
Amy says not much has changed over the past 125 years inside the theatre just a few tweaks like expanding the seat width during its many renovations.
She adds, "If you were an individual with a physical impairment the fire department had to be called so you could participate in programming at the Mabel Theatre Center for the Arts. You had to be carried up the stairs."
“In the 1950's, it was very close to being torn down to make a parking lot where we're standing now,” explains Quilling.
Overall, this community is humbled to be compared to theatres in London, Tokyo and Paris by its beautiful stained glass windows, woodwork and infamous water-powered pipe organ.
"It's the economic engine for our downtown and hopefully now we can capitalize on that and bring in people from not only the community who have never been here, but throughout the Midwest , the United States and the world,” says Mercil.
“We knew the jewel she was and we have known and Andrew Tainter I believe knew that by building this, the community of Menomonie would keep here and he trusted in the community which we have done,” says Quilling.
Amy says the Mabel Theatre is a presenting organization and they bring in other musicians, theatre, dance, and comedy throughout the region.
You can see Jeanne in The Menomonie Theatre Guild showing ‘Lost in Yonkers,’ as Grandma Kurnitz April 26-27 and May 1-4 at the Mabel Theatre.