Thursday, July 3, 2014

Finding the Old Globe Theatre

Cleveland Press, 1936

Regardless of the time I have spent read or researching about the Old Globe Theatre at the 1936 Great Lakes Exposition, I have never been able to successfully picture where it stood in space, nor what surrounded it. So I contacted historian John Vacha and he agreed to meet me for an informal walking tour.

John arrived more prepared for this journey than I was (though I did bring my copy of Meet Me On Lake Erie, Dearie for him to sign) as he provided a map he found in the Cleveland Press which was much easier to read and follow than others I have seen. We parked on Lakeshore and walked west towards East Ninth.

It has been a beautiful day for walking.

The Olde Globe Theatre

The Main Entrance, the most photogenic entrance, featuring seven grand pylons, was actually a couple blocks south, on the other side of the Public Hall, but that was not our destination. The Expo was divided by East Ninth, with the lion's share of exhibits north of the railroad tracks.

Where the Rock Halls stands was the Firestone exhibit, where now stands the Great Lakes Science Center was the Hall of Progress and Automotive Building. The football stadium stand where once stood, uh, the old football stadium. That was also not my site of interest.

Just north of North Marginal Drive, formerly called "Shore Drive" they had built a tunnel beneath East Ninth for folks to pass unimpeded from the western exhibits to the Midway to the east, and also an entrance north of that right off East Ninth. It is that entrance which would have been the easiest access to the Old Globe Theatre.

With the exception of the creation of North Coast Harbor (see above) the land footprint is nearly the same as that of 78 years ago. Where now rests the World War II submarine, the USS Cod, there had been a World War One sub during the exposition. The Coast Guard had a station right there in 1936 - only several hundred yards to the north, where the Army Corps of Engineers now stands.

By mine and John's best estimate, the Old Globe Theatre, which presented forty-minute abridgements of several of Shakespeare's greatest plays (and also Henry VIII), the very play house where Sam Wanamaker, at the tender age of eighteen, first worked as a professional actor, performing the greatest roles of the canon (Second Citizen, Servant, Guard, Philostrate), inspiring him to one day recreate Shakespeare's Globe on old Bankside, was in fact located where now sits the Coast Guard station parking lot.

Just there, behind the young woman sitting at the water's edge (see her?) reading a book.

"What's she reading?" I asked.

I answered my own question at the same time John did: "Shakespeare."

To be continued.

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