It is 1904 in Boston. Four year old Miriam is entranced with her Saturday excursions with Pop to the theater, movies (stills), vaudeville, dance, and sometimes on Sundays to the Yiddish theater. Her favorite is seeing the long-legged beautiful ladies dancing in unison. When Ma is not looking, she hides in her parents’ bedroom and practices pirouettes in front of the crackly mirror. Thus commences Miriam’s fantasy of going on stage, much to Ma’s dismay.
My research into Boston’s “palaces” began when I interviewed Art Singer for my TV show, “ALivelihood: New Adventures As We Age.” Art had just published a lovingly researched book about these elaborate edifices that so thrilled movie and theater-goers in the early part of the 1900s, before “talkies.” Some of these palaces remain today in 2018, refurbished many times over but redolent of the beauty of the times.
My descriptions of the structures, mostly from the inside and seen from the eyes of the narrator, were further nourished by my research into the files at Emerson College in Boston. Emerson is a theater arts college that keeps an extensive collection of old Boston theater memorabilia, including playbills and old photos. It’s a wonderful repository for a historical novelist like me.
Miriam as narrator describes from a child’s vantage point the sculptural cherubs hanging from elaborately decorated walls, the wide carpeted staircase to the mezzanine, the velvet seats that swayed backwards, and the gloriously dressed ladies seated near her. Later, as an adult her eye is riveted by beauty, having been nurtured by Pop from a young age. Little does Pop know in 1904 where this takes his little darling.