Times Are a Changin
Tom Heath: Good morning Tucson. It’s a beautiful Sunday in the Old Pueblo. And I want to thank you for spending part of your brunch hour with us on your downtown Tucson Community sponsored rock and roll radio station. This week, we discuss another 100 Year celebration and our downtown. Today is March 1st. My name is Tom Heath and you’re listening to life. Along the streetcar.
Tom Heath: Each and every Sunday, our focus is on social cultural and economic impacts and Tucson’s Urban core and we shed light on hidden gems everyone should know about. From A mountain to UArizona and all stops in between, you get the inside track right here at 99.1 FM streaming on DowntownRadio.org.
Tom Heath: We’re also available on your iPhone or Android heading over to your App Store and download the Downtown Radio Tucson app. And then we’re in your pocket. Whenever you need us. On the show, you can get us by email Contact@LifeAlongTheStreetcar.org. you can interact with us on Facebook. We are on Twitter and if you want to check out any of our hundred and twenty some past episodes head over to our webpage Life along the streetcar.org.
Tom Heath: That is getting ready to go through some renovations itself, and we’re going to start to break out these hundred and twenty some episodes that we have done into different categories of social, cultural and economic so you can more easily find what you’re looking for and in the search function is fantastic. So LifeAlongTheStreetcar.org. Get a little bit of History here on Tucson Through The Eyes of our show.
Tom Heath: We’re going to start today with news. of a time change. Here in Tucson, we don’t get tied up with the daylight savings nonsense. We always have the same time all the time, year-round kind of makes it easy for us, little hard then to communicate with our family and friends and different parts of the world. We have to figure out what time it is there now what time it is there in the fall and it could be a mess, but we’re avoiding all of that here in Tucson because we don’t have daylight savings time.
Tom Heath: I bring all this about time change and about confusion and finding the ones that you love because this show Life along the streetcar is going through a time change. We’re going to start airing next week – next week, March 8 at 11 a.m. So if you tune in at 11:30, you’re going to miss the show. But it’s okay, we do have all of the podcasts available for rebroadcast on our web page a day or so after the show airs. Course, you get the really good stuff when you listen live at 11 a.m. here in Tucson.
Tom Heath: If you’re in different parts of the world, I don’t know what time it is over there. I don’t even know what time it is in Ohio where my mom is right now. That’s not very good. But I do know that our show 11 a.m. Starting on March 8, next week. In other news about times and time warps and amazing feats of surviving the century. Let’s talk about a downtown celebration.
Tom Heath: 100 years ago, The Rialto Theater opened across the street from at the time the recently completed Hotel Congress. It was our Entertainment District. We had the hotel, we had a restaurant, pretty sure there’s a bar in there. Now. You have a vaudevillian theater. The Rialto is a downtown iconic fixture as you roll in from the East heading west. You just can’t miss that marquee that is all lit up, hasn’t always been that way though. A hundred years have not been smooth for the Rialto Theater.
Tom Heath: They’ve undergone some changes and some Renovations, some challenges and some Perseverance and last night the reality of the Rialto Theater Foundation celebrated this 100th anniversary. As part of their annual fundraising Gala was a black-and-white masquerade Affair and as expected. It was a popular place to be on Leap Day 2020 well in honor of this Milestone, we pulled out our archives a 2018 feature we did on the theater with Julie Raglan the development director of the Rialto Theater Foundation.
Tom Heath: This theater has survived anrson attempt, was originally designed for Vaudeville, but it showed adult films. It’s been used to store furniture and it is haunted. When you talk to Julie Ragland, she says all of this is just simply part of its funky vibe. Form is part of the reason why those efforts to preserve the history of downtown Tucson, the Rialto Theater Foundation has now restored the theater to being one of the top live performance spots in the world. The foundation has since added R-bar and 191 Toole to its operations. So we sat down with Julie in 2018 you get a little history of the foundation and discuss its Mission. So here’s that interview from 2018 with Julie Ragland.
Julie Ragland: I’m Julie Ragland. I’m the development director at the Rialto Theater Foundation.
Tom Heath: How long have you been with the Rialto Foundation?
Julie Ragland: It’ll be two years in April.
Tom Heath: What do you like most about what you do?
Julie Ragland: I love being part of the downtown Tucson community and being part of the Rialto which is a big part of the downtown Tucson Community.
Tom Heath: This is a fairly new Endeavor as foundation. The Rialto Theatre has been around for years.
Julie Ragland: It is right. So do you want like the quick and dirty history of Rialto?
Tom Heath: Give us the quick and dirty but don’t skip the dirty,,,
Julie Ragland: There is some dirty entertaining history there. So Rialto was was built in 1919, which all Congress and the Rialto Theater were built in conjunction with each other and the Rialto opened in 1920 as a Vaudeville house. There was an orchestra pit as well as an organ and performances were down to live music and what Ben of their variety show type and then it became a movie house. So it showed some of the first talking pictures in the 1920s then throughout the decades had a few different iterations a furniture warehouse at one point. It was Spanish language cinema at a couple different points. It was a pornographic theater at one point and that was the impetus for the arson attempt. So there was a woman who was upset about deep throat being shown at the theater. And hung out in the in the balcony after the theater had closed and attempted to burn down the balcony and and that the balcony wasn’t actually restored until the the foundation took over in 2004.
Julie Ragland: During a Spanish language film in 1984, there was a boiler explosion underneath the stage and that shut, nobody was hurt thankfully, but it shut down and condemned the building for some years in the mid-80s it almost got torn down and became a parking lot and I don’t know what grace of God there was to stop that but it wasn’t torn down and that vank it for a few more years and then twogentleman that had been pretty involved in KXCI, Jeb Schoonover and Paul Bearer, bought the theater and reopened it in the mid-1990s But like no air conditioning back then it was still it was still fairly run down, but we opened and started hosting concerts again.
Julie Ragland: And then in 2004 as part of the Rio Nuevo project. The Rialto Theater Foundation was formed.
Tom Heath: And it has operated as the Rialto Theater Under the direction of the Rialto Theater Foundation since then, correct? And in that time frame the foundation’s grown as well. It’s acquired some new properties and new businesses.
Julie Ragland: So in 2014 after the Cadence building went up there’s a little spot in the herb. Alleyway that was available and so we established the our bar in that space. You can exit through the east side door during shows and go over to the our bar hang out outside get a craft cocktail without really leaving the Rialto property in 2016. We took over a warehouse space in the warehouse Arts District on tool Avenue, which at one point had been mocha the Museum of Of Contemporary Art and then at one point had also been Scrappy’s and then had been being used by your church.
Julie Ragland: We ended up taking over that venue and we’ve been programming that with multiple shows weekly ever since then and it mirrors the Rialto in that we program all types of performance and music in there just like at the Rialto we’re bringing in a high volume of shows across multiple multiple genres. It’s in our mission to provide music for the whole Community to Provide a place where people can come here high quality music and experience live performance because our community is diverse.
Julie Ragland: We feel very committed to providing diverse offerings for for our patrons in our community. We do a higher volume of shows and a lot of venues. So we don’t always make money on every single show. We are more willing than a lot of places to take chances. As you know, some of that is just because we want artist to have a platform for their art and the Rialto is it a great place for that.
Tom Heath: Part of your mission, I just thought sometimes you had some really funky taste.
Julie Ragland: Yeah, that’s part of it too. We do have funky taste but but it is our mission to provide a wide array of entertainment. We do have a really funky Vibe and we’ve got our murals throughout the venue that I think make the Rialto really unique. Not only are we providing A place for performance artists were also providing a place for visual artists to Showcase their work, you know, we’ve got four or five permanent murals throughout the venue both on the inside and the exterior and then we also have our rotating advertising murals on the east side of the building. And so I think that’s a pretty cool thing to…
Tom Heath: The Rialto Theater is recognized nationally as one of the best live venues for show, isn’t it?
Julie Ragland: No, that’s correct. Actually, Consequence of Sounds in 2016 named the Rialto one of the best live venue live music venues in the United States and then Pollstar Magazine which compiles it’s an industry magazine that compiles ticket sales and you know other industry music industry related data, does their annual listings and so at the end of last year we were I think number 337 I’ll have to check and their worldwide listing of Club venues of our size. So that kind of shows you and that’s that’s just compiling touring National touring acts the ticket sales for National touring acts. So it doesn’t include like Community shows or other smaller shows that we might put on.
Tom Heath: So we’re in the middle of our interview from 2018 with Julie Ragland of the Rialto Theater Foundation. She’s been there now for four plus years and she’s sharing with us the history of the Rialto and a little bit of how it has come back into being one of the best venues for music in the country. Actually. I think top 30 in a couple of different polls she just mentioned. We’ll back to finish up that interview in just a moment and I want to remind you that you are listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio 98.1 FM available for streaming at DowntownRadio.org and starting next week, moving to 11 a.m.
Tom Heath: All right, we are back. We’re going to get to the completion of our interview with Julie Ragland of the Rialto Theater Foundation. As a reminder, this is from 2018. So in this next episode she’s going to talk about a capital campaign. That’s about to start. Well, they have done that first phase of the campaign. And in fact, the items that she mentions that they’re focused on have actually been completed at the Rialto Theater, but we want you to hear about what’s the next phase that there are working on. So again, this is 2018 Julie Raglan with the Rialto Theater Foundation.
Tom Heath: So the foundation they’ve got the Rialto back. They’ve got a the R Bar they’ve opened up 191 Toole. So I guess they’re done, right?
Julie Ragland: The biggest thing that’s going on right now is that we’ve launched a capital campaign. Gathering our big leadership gifts before we launched the campaign publicly, but we’re almost ready to launch this this campaign publicly and it’ll be for some Significant and much needed Renovations for the theater.
Julie Ragland: So the first phase will be complete renovation, upgrade, expansion of the restrooms. They’ll be completely ADA Compliant and then greatly expanded. If you’ve been in the real to restrooms at all within in the past 20 years, you know that that they’re they’re pretty outdated. And so this that aspect will be happening this year and then we’ll be doing some work to the auditorium, we’ll be tearing the floor. So right now it’s got the slope which it can be pretty uncomfortable to stand on and really limits the configurations that we can do in terms of putting tables out, you know, renting out the theater for weddings, quinceañeras, you know private rentals. It’s really limited because of that slope of the floor so we’ll be tearing the floor. So they’ll be a flat Dance Floor som,e stairs and a wheelchair lift up to a second tier.
Julie Ragland: So that’ll be an exciting change and then we’ll be consolidating bars. So right now you’ve got the main bar in the lobby and then there’s an auditorium bar inside the main Auditorium and those will be those will be Consolidated into one bar that you can walk around 360 degrees.
Tom Heath: Arre you talking about a second-tier. You’re not referring to the balcony. You mean on the main floor?
Julie Ragland: On the main floor, correct. Right. So we’re not planning balcony Renovations at this time? Although there are some aspirations for that at some point. So the campaign Is a million dollar campaign and we’ve raised about half of that right now. So what we’ll be doing is we’ll be revealing our plans to the general public and then we’ll be asking the general public and our patrons to help us reach the goal.
Tom Heath: You currently offer memberships to the theater that you’re going to be completely separate campaign?
Julie Ragland: So any contribution because we’re a nonprofit organization any contributions toward that Capital campaign will be fully. Tax deductible and so that’s you know a great reason to donate to that campaign. So the membership program is something that we’ve been doing for a few years. Now that’s offering memberships for the general public. And as a member you get a wide array array of benefits in return for your membership. We have membership starting at $30 all the way up to $2,500 and there are seven membership tears all together.
Tom Heath: The funds for the foundation, you have ticket sales, donations, memberships, sponsorships you can you can sponsor as well. Absolutely. I’ve seen people in the lobby so you can rent out your lobby for a show to sponsor a particular show?
Julie Ragland: Right. So we’ve got we’ve got monthly underwriting opportunities. So you would pay us a monthly amount and we advertise for you on our on our website on our emails in the theater on our slides. We’ve got what we call Concert Vision which are the TVs that you see around the venue. That we’re advertising on and then you can also do sponsorships. You can do single show sponsorships or a series of show sponsorships. And so that would be you know you as a business looking at our Show lineup and thinking about what what target audience would be a good match and then you could sponsor a show that you think would be a good match for for your your clientele and then you could have you know banners up and have a booth in the lobby or have a tent out front. And get a bunch of really targeted advertising as part of that.
Tom Heath: And then I also found a fairly recently which Others May know you can rent the theater or 191 Toole for private events.
Julie Ragland: Absolutely. Yep. Yep. You can rent the theater or 191 Toole for private events. You know, anything from from weddings, we’ve had weddings here, quincineras, private Fund Raisers, concerts that sort of thing. So both venues are great the The Rialto the capacity of Rialto is about 1,300. If we don’t seat the whole thing. It’s about 900 if we do seat the whole thing and then 191 Toole is capacity 500 standing or about half of that about 250 seated. So, you know, we have a lot of good options for that.
Julie Ragland: 191 is really accessible venue. So, you know, where as the theater can be hard to get a date, you know, it’s like if you came to us and wanted a Saturday in April, we probably wouldn’t give it to you because we might have a big show that comes through. You know, that’s going to make us a lot of money but 191 is is pretty available and accessible for smaller groups, you know Community groups other nonprofits to rent that space/
Tom Heath: But if I need something Tuesday Morning in the middle of July, I might be able to get the Rialto?
Julie Ragland: Probably a good chance. Yes.
Tom Heath: Oh and if someone or a group wanted to tour the Rialto to get a sense it’s of the history. Is that something you guys do as well?
Julie Ragland: Absolutely. Yep will always put together a tour if people want to come and see the Rialto in here a little bit about the history. So yeah any of anytime somebody has interest in that they can reach out and contact me directly. We are a part of the league of historic American theaters people working in and at historic theaters throughout the United States and so, you know, that’s that’s one thing that is it’s been really interesting to learn about is the kind of the role of historic theaters in these Renaissance occurrences that are happening throughout the whole nation. similar to what’s happening here where there’s a big influx back into urban areas that you know had kind of been abandoned in the mid century with the Advent of television and the suburbs and people, you know, kind of abandoned downtown’s and now people are coming back to downtown’s. Historic theaters that haven’t been been lost are being renovated and revitalized and are being used once again for for arts and culture. Like they were originally intended.
Tom Heath: You have a list of things you want to cover what have we not talk about that is important?
Julie Ragland: We’ve covered the history, the Gala, membership the capital campaign. This is all leading up to the Rialto’s hundredth anniversary in 2020. So we’ll be throwing big parties throughout 2020, celebrating the 100th anniversary of the Rialto and you know gearing up toward the next hundred years of the Rialto Theater.
Tom Heath: Well, we like to book-end this this interview we did it in 2018 talking about some of the upcoming changes and if you’ve been to the Rialto Theater, you know that phase one of that Capital campaign is complete. The bathrooms are amazing, completely different than they were when we aired this interview originally and you know, they have now surpassed that hundred year mark. The Gala was last night, another huge success for the Rialto Theater and they’re just now gearing up for the next hundred years.
Tom Heath: My name is Tom Heath. You are listening to Life along the streetcar on Downtown Radio 99.1 FM were available for streaming on Downtown Radio dot org. And as of March 8th, 2020 our shows move into 11 a.m. Episode number 125 is in the books. We Revisited our interview with Julie Ragland of the Rialto Theater Foundation from 2018 and And I got a glimpse to see that she was pretty on target with her projections as far as what their plans were over the next two years in preparation for their hundredth anniversary celebration, which took place last night on Leap Day 2020.
Tom Heath: When you have an organization that can set a vision and then come through and deliver on that Vision, it’s great to be a part of the beginning and to be able to report on the end of that. So congratulations to the Rialto Theater Foundation, looking forward to many more years of wonderful programming at the main theater there and it 191 Toole.
Tom Heath: Well, we let off the show and we’re going to end the show here with a announcement of a time change for Life Along the Streetcar. We have been moved up to 11:00am kind of excited about that because we get to follow right after the Art of Easing. One of my favorite shows on Downtown Radio. There are a lot of great shows and DJ Bank the musical bum who comes in here from 9:00 to 11:00 curates a fantastic, fantastic show. So excited to be right next to him and hope some of his loyal listeners may stay tuned for Life Along the Streetcar.
Tom Heath: If you’re a fan of this show, maybe tuned in a little bit early next week and listen to DJ Bank the musical bum his show The Art of easing And then we’ll Ease on in to the 11 o’clock Life Along the Streetcar feature. Well, we’re going to leave you with a little music today and honor of this change. We’ve got a group here called the resistors from a 2019 album, Upload Democracy. We’re going to listen to their version of the classic, “The Times They Are A-Changin.” My name is Tom Heath. You’ve been listening to Life Along the Streetcar on Downtown Radio. Hope you have a great week and tune in next Sunday at 11:00 a.m. for more news from the urban core.