A long time crowd pleaser is the Wurlitzer, and the talented organist known as “the Queen of the Soaps”. Rosa Rio provided accompaniments for soap operas prior to entertaining the people of Tampa. After studying piano at Oberlin College and organ at the Eastman School of Music, she began a career as a silent movie accompanist. After “talkies” began, her career turned to radio dramas, including “The Shadow” with Orson Welles. In addition to numerous soap operas, she played piano for Mary Martin while auditioning in Cole Porter’s apartment in the Waldorf Astoria.
Her love of music and the Tampa Theatre was evident in the fact that she continued to play the Mighty Wurlitzer, and at the age of 105 years old, provided accompaniment to Buster Keaton’s silent film “One Wurlitzer, and at the age of 105 years old, provided accompaniment to Buster Keaton’s silent film “One Week”. Rosa Rio passed away at the age of 107, but her music will live on. For a sample of her talent, watch this video from 2005, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cwGBEyPNmaA. She was 102 at the time.
The Tampa Theatre was named to the National Register of Historic Places in 1978, is a Tampa City Landmark, and is a member of the League of Historic American Theatres. Managed by the non-profit Tampa Theatre Foundation, it is used for a variety of events including weddings, business meetings, classic movies, first run films, film festivals, concerts, field trips, summer camp programs, tours and fundraising galas.
Tampa Theatre offers a summer camp program, in collaboration with The Florida Center for Instructional Technology at the USF College of Education. Students from 3rd to 12th grade are invited to participate in the one-week camp program. They will learn about scriptwriting, lighting, sound, filming and editing the work. Each group will create a 3-5 minute live action or stop motion animation film that will be shown to students and their parents at the end of the week. The filmmakers can go on stage to take their bows and pose for pictures. It’s a fun-filled learning experience. Information on the 2013 summer camp program will be posted on the website in February.
One of the more popular events is Oscar Night America. The event will be held Sunday, February 24, 2013. Visitors ride in a limousine (that is parked around the corner) and get to walk the red carpet while the paparazzi line the entrance. The Live Telecast of the Academy Awards begins at 8:00.
A free preview screening of the season premiere of “Downton Abbey,” the popular PBS series, will be held on January 3 and an acoustic evening with Matisyahu on February 23, 2013. The Tampa Theatre is located at 711 N. Franklin Street, in Tampa. For more information about upcoming events, call 813-274-8981 or 813-274-8286 or go to http://tampatheatre.org/
There have been so many events that have taken place over the years at the Tampa Theatre, from first dates to marriage proposals. Take the time to read some of the stories shared on the website, under Tampa Theatre Stories Project. We need to keep this piece of history alive, so that it can stay in the hearts and minds of future generations, too. When you are looking for something fun to do with your friends, get your glad rags on and head to the Tampa Theatre. It’s the bees knees!
(Part 2 of 2)
*Previously published in LOLANews