A Historical Documentary of the Cascade Theatre
● By Enjoy Magazine
A Diamond Restored
Story by Aaron Williams
Photos courtesy of the Shasta Historical Society
THE CASCADE THEATRE'S neon marquee paints a gorgeous picture in downtown Redding’s heart. All lit up, the beautifully restored gem is a beacon for concert and theater-goers and example of how a civic-minded campaign saved the historic landmark that had fallen into disrepair.
“Curtain Up, The Life and Rebirth of the Cascade Theatre,” a new documentary premiering in September, tells the riches-to-rags-to-riches tale of how the 1930s Art Deco palace fell into disrepair, was ultimately saved and how it serves as an example for other communities looking to salvage their history.
Written by Jessica Weichman and directed by Charley Williams, “Curtain Up” focuses on the Jefferson Public Radio’s painstaking restoration of the Cascade, but also dives back into the opening of the magnificent theater and its descent to becoming a four-screen movie theater.
The roughly hour-long film is timed to coincide with the 15th anniversary of the Cascade’s 2004 restoration. The free showing is scheduled for Saturday, Sept. 22 at 6 pm.
“It’s really informative for anyone in the community,” says Jana Pulcini-Leard, producer and artistic director for Jefferson Live! “It’s quite an eye-opener to see how huge of a project it was. It’s also sweet and delivers emotional testimonials.”
Williams, the video producer and Shasta Historical Society board member, says these projects are important for preserving a piece of the area’s history.
“This is one of those historical stories we want to tell,” Williams says, adding that much of the archival footage was at a point where digitizing it was also necessary to save the older mediums. “This is also a way to keep much of that history alive.”
Screenwriter Weichman, who wrote the previous four “A Cascade Christmas” scripts, says the heart of the story is how the community stepped up to save its theater.
“Without their support, the Cascade never would’ve been revamped and restored,” she says. “Redding has a lot of things to be proud of, and the Cascade certainly is one of those.”
The documentary begins at the Cascade’s low point and turns from what Weichman called an “inciting incident” of how JPR wanted to expand and ultimately help restore the iconic theater.
“They were brought together by circumstance,” she says.
Sifting through all the film, interviews and even pictures brought in through a community outreach over the past year proved daunting at times, but both Williams and Weichman say it showed how invested the community was in the Cascade Theatre.
“If you have a downtown block and business is going well,” Weichman says, “it’s likely a historic building is contributing to the excitement of the area.”
Williams said they had difficulty finding footage of the restoration, but still photos of the work, combined with interviews from people like architect James Theimer and Ray Kassis—whose father worked at the theater when it first opened—were used as sources.
“I’ve been in Redding since 1952 and there was a lot about the Cascade that I learned,” Williams says. •
“Curtain Up, The Life and Rebirth of the Cascade Theatre”
Saturday, Sept. 22, 6 pm • Free
Cascade Theatre, 1731 Market St., Redding