The seats are in the house!
Laura Nation-Atchison/The Daily Home

Talladega’s Ritz Theatre got its new seata installed on the mezzanine level Friday. They came from Birmingham’s Virginia Samford Theatre and replace the metal folding chairs that had been in use. From left are Antique Talladega board member Tommy Moorehead, Virginia Samford Technical Director Ben Boyer who led installing the seats; Pilgrimage Council member Sally Lawrence and George Culver, executive director for The Ritz Theatre and Antique Talladega.
It just seemed meant to be.

Two theatres, one being refurbished, another one, needing to be.

And with certain connections he has in the business, George Culver, executive director for The Ritz Theatre and Antique Talladega, made it happen.

With some help, though, members of Talladega’s Pilgrimage Council came to the rescue with $4,000 in funding, and now, the mezzanine level of the theatre has real theatre seats.

Since The Ritz was reopened as a performing arts center in 1996, seating in the mezzanine level was pretty basic. All it had was basic metal folding chairs.

Although audiences more often than not filled the seats anyway, the change is a huge one for the theatre and Culver and the theatre’s supporters are thrilled.

Culver heard that the Virginia Samford Theatre in Birmingham was having new seats installed, got on the telephone and worked out the details.

Within a couple of weeks, he, along with Antique Talladega board member Boyd McGehee, city employee Mack Simmons and some city inmate helpers, made the trip together and had the seats unloaded at The Ritz within one morning.

The seats a were a real bargain, Culver said, at just $25 each. Plus, they had recently been recovered and just happened to match the colors used inside The Ritz.

Altogether, there are 112 of them, and last Friday, were being installed by Ben Boyer, technical director for the Virginia Samford Theatre and Culver’s initial contact for the deal.

The seats destiny to come to The Ritz is even more fitting when its noted that they were actually made during the decade that The Ritz was built, so their style is perfect, too, Culver said.

Brass nameplates on the backs of the seats tell who sponsored them for the Virginia Samford Theatre, and Culver and others with theatre connections have recognized several names already.

Culver said the nameplates will likely remain on the seats.

He said the seats were originally used by patrons of Birmingham’s Town and Gown Theatre.

Evelyn McGehee, president for The Pilgrimage Council, said it was just natural for the organization to provide the funding, the by laws for the organization spell it all out.

“Our proceeds are to be used for restoration and historic preservation,” she said.

The Pilgrimage Council generates it funding through the yearly April in Talladega event it hosts, when historic and interesting homes are showcased with tours and luncheons and other special events are planned.

The Pilgrimage Council has also contributed to projects such as the Landmark House, helped fund restoring the marquee at The Ritz, provided assistance for the Greater Talladega Area Chamber of Commerce to restore the caboose in the chamber parking lot and has helped in other ways around town, such as planting trees to replace old trees that have been lost through the years.

The seats for the Ritz just fit right in, McGehee said.

“I keep saying it over and over, but I feel like a proud parent,” Culver said. “This has just worked out perfectly.”

© 2012