Monday, October 13, 2014

Fine Arts Theatre Update: Steve Trumble Is Crazy

Yes, I said it—the man is cra-zy.

When I caught up with Steve Trumble to find out what was going on with the theater a couple of weeks ago, I kept finding myself shaking my head at him. "You're crazy," I finally said. He didn't deny it. 

As he showed me around, he talked to me about how much of the building had to be redone, all while trying to preserve the original character of the place. "It would have been cheaper to tear it down and build a new theater from scratch," he admitted. I don't doubt it. The same was true of the Maynard Public Library when it was redone, but we saved an old building, revitalized a neighborhood, and most importantly, got a really great library out of it. I think the same will be true of the Fine Arts Theatre. 

It's the cosmetic stuff that seems most obviously improved when you walk in, but those improvements are a drop in the bucket compared to the structural tsunami that has been the Fine Arts Theatre. All the stuff we can't see—new plumbing, new wiring, new heating systems, new roof... it's all there and so very important. "Nobody should have to sit in the theater with their coat on," he said to me. So many of us did though, grumbling under our breath as we pulled our hats down tighter. He told me about some of the bad things that they came across. For example, some key safety elements in the theater were connected to electricity using extension cords. That's just bad.

Fine Arts Theatre's new retro-styled carpet—love!
It seems that with this project lots of things went wrong. A wall would be opened, a floor uncovered, a ceiling inspected, and ta-da, a problem would be found. I've heard people say that maybe it was a sign; that maybe he was supposed to give up on it, or that the universe was sending him some kind of message. Sure, I suppose that would be one way of looking at it—a bit half-full, if you ask me. In talking to him about the whole experience, the feeling I get is that he is not a quitter—he's just not. He has the audacity to keep going in spite of all the problems, and I respect and appreciate him for it. 

As for the cosmetic stuff... I suppose that's where my accusations of craziness really comes in. As we walked through the theater and he pointed out special things he has put in (retro carpeting, classic-movie posters, velvet ropes), I found myself asking him, "With all the money you're sinking into this place, how can you justify spending money on this stuff?!?" "These are all just little things, and you're missing the point," he said. It was after walking around the whole place that I finally realized what he was getting at. With each choice, he has not opted for what was the cheapest or easiest, but instead chose what was right for the theater. And what became clear is that Steve Trumble isn't just trying to make a movie theater, he wants to make a whole movie experience. I don't know if any other investors would have had the nerve to make the choices that he's made, but I do know that the theater has more value for the attention to detail that he's giving it.

People in Maynard and the surrounding communities grow restless, they are anxious to have the theater open. Steve is anxious, too. Soon the building inspector will stop finding areas that need correcting. But even when the inspections stop, I believe the theater won't open until Steve believes he has made the theater that he has set out to make, and that is a place that people will want to be. And someday soon, we'll be able to brag about this little gem in Maynard, and we'll forgive that it took so much time and effort to get it done. 

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