Geoff Yaw, senior producer/director at Think Media Studios, takes us behind the scenes of “Playhouse Square: Restoring the Legacy,” a look at the re-creation of the Ohio Theatre’s Gund Foundation Lobby and restoration of the State Theatre.
What did you find particularly compelling about this project?
I think like most people I like rummaging around in old things – opening up dusty boxes and peering into the past. So the prospect of spending some time with the team that would be uncovering the bones of the Ohio lobby was a no brainer. I think it took a lot of guts on the part of Playhouse Square to commit to a project of this scope and difficulty. I had visions of hidden treasures waiting to be discovered. Usually when you start project like this you imagine lots of things and you are usually wrong, but in this case I wasn’t disappointed.
Fairly early in the process, you zeroed in on the festoon as a focal point. What drew you to that?
The festoons that you’ll find at either end of the Gund Foundation Lobby just below the domed ceiling are a prime example of this journey of discovery for Tom Einhouse, Jeff Greene and the crew from EverGreene Architectural Arts. To find just enough bits and pieces of original ornamental detail, then to take the scarification from smoke and fire and combine all of that in order to restore a smaller detail of the space to its original state was what we as filmmakers were expecting to witness. I zeroed in on the festoon because it was symbolic of the care and detail that went into this work. Casual observers may find these details and see them as just a small piece of this now amazing space, but when you know what went into those festoons you really start to appreciate the craft.
What were the major challenges of telling this story?
The biggest challenges we faced were the same challenges that the men and women doing the work faced. Hard hats, dust and hauling equipment up scary flights of scaffolding steps. Once the lobby was stripped down to its bones, the work site was a place where you had to keep your head on a swivel. Not necessarily for safety reasons, but because there was so much going on that you really had to choose where to look and what to pay attention to.
What’s one thing that didn’t make it into the film that you would have liked to include if time permitted?
Whenever you have a time limitation you always have to leave things “on the cutting room floor” as the saying goes. Unfortunately, we didn’t have time to show the audience Jeff Greene’s extensive exotic musical instrument collection that he keeps in EverGreene’s NYC studio. He collects instruments from all over the world and knows how to play them all. He did so for our cameras. I’ve said more than once that if you talk to Jeff Greene for more than 10 minutes you will feel like a much less interesting person than you thought you were. The guy has stories.
What do you hope people come away with after watching this?
I hope that people will take away and recognize the dedication of people like Tom Einhouse. This was an extremely challenging project and without the hard work of Playhouse Square and people like Tom projects like this don’t get done, and they don’t get done with the level of care that this project did. In some ways this undertaking, on the part of Playhouse Square, is emblematic of what seems to be happening in Cleveland right now. The city is still buzzing over the Cavs victory, we’re about to host a major political event and people are noticing that Cleveland is on the upswing. The legacy that Playhouse Square is keeping alive is just as important to the future of the region and perhaps more lasting.
Watch “Playhouse Square: Restoring the Legacy.” (Run time: 23 minutes)
Think Media Studios, Cleveland’s leading video and event production company, produces award-winning video, feature films and multimedia assets for a wide range of uses.