Doing what many thought was impossible; after only three months of renovation the Sherman Theater reopened her doors on July 16th to a packed house. The Grand Opening was a benefit event that was absolutely superb.
Audiences have been astounded by the new look of the theater and have found that features convey the style and look of the original architecture. The theater itself seemes to smile and deliver the incredible ambiance of years past. The auditorium, silent for so many years is now filled once again with the sounds of laughter, applause and tapping feet, that only a few short months before were haunting memories. The stage once covered over and hidden from view, is now alive once more with song, dance and rhetoric, it is truly a testament to the Sherman Theater’s rich history. Once known for such humanitarian efforts as a shelter for the community during a flood, the Sherman is once again is heavily involved with the community, donating proceeds from the Opening Gala to the Pocono Arts Council and the Youth Advocacy Group, and opening its doors to an array of community groups and benefits, truly becoming your Pocono community theater. With promoters calling almost daily, and a staff dedicated to the success of the theater, the Sherman is sure to please all of its members and patrons, for years to come.
The ‘90’s represent a sad time in the history of the Sherman. With the exception of a new roof, very few repairs were made to the ageing lady. Performers continued to produce wonderful plays spanning various genres. But the Sherman was tired, and showing her hard worked years, and badly needed renovation. Some valiant efforts were put into reviving Sherman, including The Monroe County Film Society‘s refurbishing of the projectors to show classic films like West Side Story and Kubrick‘s A Clockwork Orange. The audience attracted by these films was small but promising, and plans to turn the Sherman into the best repertory theater and art movie house in Monroe County were underway when vandals damaged the theater. Then on November 17, 1993, the theater was burglarized and audio equipment valued at $5,000 was stolen. This proved to be the financial hurdle that doomed the project, even though the theater continued to operate sporadically with shows and plays performed by local thespians. For a brief time, one side of the theater was used as a church. With the exception of an occasional visit or two, the theater has been quiet lately.
In her walls she holds the memories of fantastic shows and classic movies, the laughter of children watching cartoons and the hoof marks of Roy Rogers’ famous horse, Trigger. The balcony holds the secret images of quiet kisses and the allure of a first date. Somewhere in the air are the evaporated tears from audiences watching touching scenes. The faint sound of laughter at the antics of comedic talents such as Laurel and Hardy, is almost audible. If you stand in the theater now, close your eyes, and listen really hard, you can almost hear applause.
Soon the lady will be restored, and her history will resume. I cannot help but wonder what the new memories will be. Thankfully the wait will be short.
In order to continue to operate as a cinema, The Sherman, like many other large movie houses, was “twinned” with a wall put down the center. That wall remains but will soon be removed as part of the restoration. During the twinning the projectors were updated (though still carbon arc).
The Sherman showed all types of movies, creating turmoil and becoming a center of controversy as a result of screening X-Rated movies. The downtown area was beginning its rebirth with an emphasis on a beautiful downtown Victorian Main Street. A group of 35 dedicated individuals decided that X-Rated movies were an impediment to the rebirth effort and planned a boycott of the Sherman and two other theaters. Before the boycott was put into effect, a “gentleman’s agreement” between the theater owners and The United Methodist Church ended the practice.
The Sherman closed its doors on December 28, 1983, and was offered for sale in 1984. It could not compete with the large multiplex theaters. Some suggested knocking down the structure in favor of housing or a large banquet hall. The theater was purchased in 1985, but not much happened until 1988, when a small group of East Stroudsburg University students campaigned to save the theater and transform it into a performing arts center. The group called itself the Far Off-Broadway Players. A few craft sales were held in an attempt to raise money for the Save Our Sherman Foundation.
In February 1989 the first of many live performances began with the Pocono Public Theater’s production of Who’s Afraid of Virginia Woolf? Two weeks before the grand reopening, a small fire burned a three-foot section of the stage wall. Ironically, the evening before the fire, a band called Hearts of Fire played the Sherman.
During this time, several rock concerts and performances by local theater groups helped keep the doors of the Sherman open. However, the theater was once more the center of turmoil in 1989 when A Funny Thing Happened on the Way to the Forum was cancelled after the director quit, citing financial irregularities. Later that same year workers began to insist on being paid monies owed to them by the theater.
Although information is not abundant, we do know that during this time the theater was remodeled and remained the center of the community. On Saturdays children watched marathon cartoon shows; at Christmas time plays such as Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs were presented. One year a circus, including an elephant, performed on stage. After the flood of 1955 the theater acted as a dry safe-haven for families and the children were entertained with afternoon cartoons donated by every film company except one, Walt Disney. Movies such as The Caine Mutiny, Scaramouche, and Mr. Roberts reportedly filled every seat. For Disney’s Daniel Boone the lobby was decorated like a forest. The Sherman would receive films only seven days after Radio City Music Hall (New York City) ran them.
The theater changed hands several times during the 50’s and 60’s, gradually becoming less of an attraction to the community, a fate shared by many other movie houses across the U.S.
Construction on the theater was completed in 1928. The design by Lacy and Rinker enabled the Sherman to be billed as “a paradise of architectural splendor.” It opened on Monday, January 7, 1929, offering a full evening’s entertainment. What a night it must have been, beginning with the playing of “The Star Spangled Banner,” a dedication address, a welcoming address, and “The Sherman News,” followed by an organist billed as “The Inimitable Johnson.“ The highlight of the evening was a live performance by Stan Laurel and Oliver Hardy. This was followed by a “Tiffany Colored Classic,” and then a “Divertimenti” featuring Al Vann and his Gang, with Mario Alvarez, and the evening’s feature film, Synthetic Sin, with Colleen More. The evening ended with an exit march.
Daily matinees were offered at 2:30 PM and evening shows at 7 and 9PM. The Sherman continued to offer vaudeville until touring acts disappeared from the American landscape, after which it became a movie house.