The iconic neon of the storied State Theater lit South Michigan Street once again, alive with activity after years of changing ownership and disuse.
The State Theater’s history is long and varied. It was built in 1919 and in 1921 opened as the Blackstone Theater. The name changed to State Theater in 1931, and served as a movie theater and vaudeville house. In 1978 it closed, then reopened in 1994 as a movie theater that ran first run and second run movies. From 1997-2005 it was a night club/bar, and from 2006 to 2008 it was used as a Christian space. After the bank took it over, it was purchased by current owner and finally reopened in March for it’s first event, Ignite Michiana.
The process of deciding what would become of the theater this time came from the community: Downtown South Bend presented the “Pitch Your Plan” contests, in which anyone could submit a business idea for the theater. A jury chose top ideas from the selections and a few finalist moved to next round, which included access to the theater, a business mentor, and use of software to help entrepreneurship organize their ideas for presentation. 88 entries were submitted by April 2012
Drew Elegante, a Notre Dame MBA graduate who was a finalist in the contest, is the General Manager of the building and more, doing everything from online advertising to leading crowd funding to programming to working at events. Assaf Dagan, who now owns the theater and a company called Banko Capital, agreed to match the first $50,000 raised by the community to gage community interest. So far it’s been used for projects like fixing the marquee and will be used in the future to get more lighting and chairs, a sound system, better projection system
The iconic State Theater marquee was repaired and finally lit up again, proudly advertising a SXSB (South By South Bend) concert. The changing marquee and lights remind downtown South Bend that the theater is back and active after years of disuse.
General Manager Drew Elegante, whose energy and enthusiasm has played a huge role in the theater’s return, in the upstairs offices he hopes to turn into artist’s studios, overlooking South Michigan Street.
The stage was likely meant for movie theater viewings and vaudeville acts when built in 1919, reminiscent of the grand theaters of the 20s, but has since been used as a Christian space, a bar, a meeting space, and a music venue.
Another example of community involvement comes from the Notre Dame design majors: potential designs to give the theater a new identity that reflects both the old memories and new possibilities of the space.
The SXSB concert audience chats and sits down for a drink between acts. The space can hold about 380 people and serves as a black box as of now — completely flexible in seating, lighting, and sound as it does not have yet have such resources that belong to the theater.
Although Elegante is the only person employed with The State Theater, the community has had an active interest in the building and keeping it from being torn down. Such community support in cleaning and improving the building has come not only from interested volunteers, but the efforts of the Downtown South Bend Ambassador program across the street.
The DTSB Ambassador program is responsible for keeping downtown clean, safe, and hospitable for a 60 block area of the core of downtown South Bend. They work for and have services available for everyone downtown, especially the State now that it is open and active again. After a graffiti incident on the front of the building the ambassadors helped remove the tags and have also recently power washed the sidewalks outside of the theater as it has had more events. The State has also borrowed sound systems, tables, and chairs from DTSB to hold events, as the space is a black box theater (meaning it does not have a house sound, lighting, or extensive furniture access)
The first event hosted in this flexible space was in March, a well attended Ignite Michiana event, using the stage for speakers and presentations. It has also hosted a Zumbathon to Benefit Center for the Homeless, a celebration of the Hindu Holi Festival of Color, Circus of Art (visual and performance art from local talent), free yoga, Brickhouse Burlesque, and concerts part of the first South By South Bend music festival.
Notre Dame students are also getting more involved with downtown through the theater: under the supervision of Prof. Anne H Berry with the Art, Art History, and Design Department, advanced graphic design students created projects to help revitalize the theater. Through brand development, interior design, and environmental design components, they hope their contributions will help reestablish the landmark as an important park of the community. The works of Tre Carden, HyeSoo Kim, Laura Laws, Colleen MacDonald, and Elizabeth Maurath are on display on banners inside the venue.
Yet another way the Theater is turning heads downtown is the rental of the marquee. While the bright neon of the huge sign lights the night, the marquee can be rented out for only $25 dollars to anyone with a positive message to share. With the constantly changing marquee, there’s something new to notice to keep the theater in people’s minds.
Since the theater does not yet have heating and air conditioning, Elegante expects there won’t be as many events in the summer, but is already preparing for what kinds of programming to expect in the fall. He hopes to bring events that will welcome people of all ethnicities and to try to bring in the 18 and up crowd from the thousands of college students in the area who find themselves unable to attend events in 21 and up venues.
I spoke more with Drew about his many ideas for the space, how he came onto the project, what has brought the theater where it is now, and what the plans for the future of the space are.
I shadowed videographer Brandon Kusz at local NBC affiliate news station WNDU (News Center 16) during the first hours of his shift, which tends to start around 2:30 or 3 to edit and get live shots for the morning news.
Much of WNDU is empty and dark at 3AM, with about 3 reporters and 2 photographers inside
The dark hallway of editing bays
Editing the NBC national packages for local air — how much time he has dictates how picky is about fixing the audio
Helping out another editor on the morning news before leacing
On location, calling into the station to set up the live shot
Kate holding a smile anticipating the first live shot. Brandon’s backpack submits the signal since the room was too far to run a cord to the truck
Kate’s first shot, as it would be seen on TV
Adjusting the camera
Learning more about the people she is about to interview
Joking around between shots
“Hurry up and wait” — a lot of waiting for the next live shot
The camera is unmounted on a tripod, and held steady by the photographer
Raising the mast on the truck
Directing the reporter
Showing the reporter how to use a cell phone to call in to hear the show live
Whitebalancing the camera
Packing up the car, mast still raised
Kate laughs as she accidentally adds “Okay, thank you so much” to the end of a conversation with a coworker by habit, on the ride back
Getting some breakfast at Martins before heading back to the station around 8AM
On set at a fellow student filmmakers’ shoot, I took some pictures to capture what the glamorous hours of “show business” look like for student films.
The student co-director waits for his shooting location to close before bringing in the equipment. It turned out that one box, the one with the lens in it, was missing from the pile. The production was held up about 45 minutes as a crew member went back for it.
The directors and crew set up a scene while the tired actor waits, their shoot going late into the night and into the next day. Shooting that day had about 7 or 8 different set ups, each needing rearrangement of lights, camera, tripod, actors, and audio that could take from 10 to 20 minutes to set up.
The actor performs a take. The directors had the talent perform anywhere between 2 and 8 takes of the same scene, from multiple angles. Some reasons to stop a take included the audio recording shutting off, an interrupting background noise, or actors and crew laughing at the lines during the take.
The slate lies next to a light and location prop from the market, waiting for its moment to mark the shot. After helping set up equipment, my entire job for the night was to change the slate and mark each shot. Slates can be marked entirely with the marker, or taped with the permanent information as above (deemed a “fancy slate” by one of the directors)
Using news, television news in particular, to make money caught on with the success of the news magazine. Straying from just hard news into a mix of topics, they inserted themselves into putting together the story, and took a new pacing and look to create a new genre. The news magazine program still exists today, but as cable channels try to draw in more viewers during prime time and late night (just as 60 Minutes became prime time ) with political commentary programs such as Hannity or The O’Reilly Factor (Fox News.)
Other genres such as comedy have even found a way to use the news to be funny or satirical like self declared “Fake News” shows The Daily Show with Jon Stewartand The Colbert Report on Comedy Central, making fun of politicians, celebrities, and parties alike. The important news meant to inform the audience with the facts may still exist on television, but are now competing and sometimes overshadowed by entertainment and news that leans towards what you want to hear. 60 Minutes may have been the drama of the righteous quest with a social purpose, but now prime time news related programs are more to draw in viewers with opinions or humor. Is it just the capitalist quest with a financial purpose?
News making money was just one way the line between news and business started to blur and make radical changes to the newspaper industry. In the 60s and 70s newspaper began going public to make money. It resulted in the need to appeal to a mass audience and advertisers in order to fund news gathering, changing the business model that supported journalism.
Today, with the prevalence and amount of different news sources online, information and news seems to have gone extremely public in a way: now anyone can write it and post it, digital first and other non-legacy companies have formed online, and news can be accessed by smaller and smaller devices from almost anywhere…for free. This has been a devastating change to the business model that supported newspapers through subscriptions and ads. Why pay for a paper when you can go online, even get the news online from that papers’ s website? Why pay for an ad in the paper when you can post on Craig’s List for free? Papers are still struggling (some shutting down or going to only three days a week instead of a daily paper) to respond to this shift to the Internet. No longer are legacy, traditional news sources the only source of news and no longer do Americans have to pay to learn more.
While the massive censorship of war correspondents and individuals during the WWII controlled a lot of the print sources of news,
emerging technologies were treated differently from the beginning. Unlike a newspaper that you pay to read and have to pay close
attention to, radio and television could be accessed by anyone with a set. With information and content just flying around in the air, the FCC swooped in with the famous/infamous Fairness Doctrine. Broadcasters could take a stand or allow others to, but must give a
reasonably balanced presentation by having both sides. TV and radio could be a forum for opposing views, but were not meant to be places for opinionated, biased news.
At first that concept seems laughable compared to the extremes of cable news channels today, like Fox News and MSNBC. More conservative viewers might claim there is bias in what is presented as more neutral news by the so called liberal media. However the presence of those extremes, in a way, is more of a similarity to the Fairness Doctrine than a difference. Instead of forcing every source to share both sides, opening up channels to have the freedom to express each side allows for an ideologically balanced media. People can choose to go to them, and in the case of cable channels like CNN, have to pay for them, so make even more of a choice to pick what news they want to hear, see, and know.
Jonathan Berr, bloggingstocks.com
A big difference between the big broadcast networks lied more in their motivations for being on air. NBC and CBS lost money in the 50s and 60s, but served as public interest programming to please the FCC and put them closer to the important public affairs and history being made as they covered it. Fox and MSNBC are arguably more about making money than informing the public or doing the public a service. Studies such as this one about how informed Fox News viewers are misinformed about domestic affairs show how going to the news tilted to what you agree with can reinforce what you want more than help you learn the truth about the world.
Farleigh Dickenson University
And as far as whether news should be neutral and what is better motive is news, the question of professional objectivity is still one present today. After all, having a blatant opinion or political motive isn’t the only way to be biased. What a station chooses to air as important, relevant, and interesting, as well as how they frame it and how they tell the story can give away or inject a bias. It’s more subtle and sometimes more effective, and whether or not its intentional can change the way viewers receive,feel about, and act upon what they learn about the world. Is it even possible to have truly unbiased news? Does it matter if it is pure and solely informative if people don’t watch and a show no longer has money to go on?