It’s not a party until the extended family shows up.
Christine Wilson sits on the board of the Rowland Theatre, the same venue that her husband’s great-great grandfather founded back in 1917. Performances by artists like the Paragon Ragtime Orchestra and Hotlanta will lead up to a centennial birthday bash on June 4.
Below, Wilson talks more about the role a theater plays in the life of a community.
Q: Do you remember the first time you stepped foot in the Rowland?
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A: It was in the ’70s.
Q: What was the last movie you saw there?
A: “Sing,” this past weekend.
Q:What’s the next movie you’re planning on seeing there?
Q: When did you join the board?
A: July 2013.
Q: Your husband’s great-great-grandfather was Charles Rowland. Is there a sense that your family is helping to carry on his legacy?
A: I would say yes. After I’m long gone, I think our children will feel a special connection to the theater as well. But it’s more than that, it’s just so important to our community. I can’t imagine how sad it would be if the theater was not in operation.
Q: Do your family ties allow you to bring a different perspective to the board?
A: Yes, it’s somewhat personal for us. I think it helps us all to remember why Charles Rowland felt so strongly about building this theater, and the family ties reinforce that he was an actual member of our community and raised his family here.
Q: Can you describe the role that you feel a theater plays in the life of a small town?
A: It provides a place of entertainment for the people of our community — a place where we can escape from reality for a brief time and enjoy movies, plays, concerts, dance recitals, weddings — and right here in Philipsburg, without having to travel to another town to participate in these events.
Q: You’ve read a draft of Rebecca Inlow’s upcoming book on the history of the Rowland. Was there anything that surprised you or that you found of particular interest?
A: There was so much history that I didn’t know about. I learned about many lives that were touched by the theater.
Q: If you were giving a tour of the Rowland and wanted to make a good first impression, where would you start?
A: I like to ask people to stand on the stage and look out at the beauty of the theater — the size, the history, the balcony, the orchestra pit, feeling what performers must feel when they look out at the audience and take in the complete atmosphere during the performance. It is breathtaking. I also like for them to see the dressing rooms in the basement — so they can feel the excitement of the performers getting ready for their performances. It’s hard to answer this because it’s all very exciting.
Q: Where’s the best seat in the house?
A: It depends on who you ask. For us, it’s downstairs, in the middle, where there’s lots of leg room. For many people, it’s that first row in the balcony — and some people come early to make sure they get those seats.
Q: What excites you most as you consider the prospect of the theater’s future?
A: Seeing the continuous improvements to the building — resulting from our fundraising efforts — seeing the new awning, plaza and digital sign in the very near future will be very exciting. We make an effort to maintain the building in a way that preserves its historical perspective, while improving its efficiency. We’re very proud of what we have accomplished.
The to-do list is endless, but we will continue to set our priorities and do the best we can with limited resources. We really need the people of the community to support us by attending our movies and live events as often as they can. This is what will help us to keep the doors open.