Search on for vaudeville memorabilia

Published 6:04 pm Thursday, December 19, 2019

Arts of the Pamlico is issuing a call for all things vaudeville, whether it’s art or memorabilia.

“We are looking for memorabilia from the Turnage Theatre and/or art and memorabilia from the vaudeville era — which we’re saying is from 1900 to 1930, to help us launch a vaudeville museum,” said Debra Torrence, executive director of Arts of the Pamlico.

The Turnage Theatre was built in the early 1900s and is now home to the arts nonprofit. While many would recognize its palace-style theater built in the mid-1930s and currently in use, fewer people have seen the original vaudeville theater that exists upstairs on the West Main Street side of the building.

The collection of Turnage Theatre vaudeville memorabilia and artwork/memorabilia associated with the vaudeville era will go on display on Jan. 8, with an opening reception at 5:30 p.m. If Arts of the Pamlico fulfills its mission to root out local entertainment antiquities, the nonprofit will be home to the only vaudeville museum in the nation.

“We want to celebrate the history of the theater,” Torrence said. “The call for art can be anything — paintings, architecture, playbills, costumes, jewelry. If people want to loan it, they can loan it. If they want to donate it, we’ll recognize their donation. Our goal is to build this installation.”

ON THE VAUDEVILLE STAGE: A playbill from the vaudeville era advertises a comedy performance. AOP is seeking Turnage Theatre vaudeville memorabilia or art/memorabilia from the vaudeville era to celebrate the history of the early 19th-century theater.

Torrence said there are a few pieces of Turnage vaudeville history in AOP possession — such as a sound projection horn and letters from the marquee outside — and an antique pump organ from the era has already been donated to the cause. A collection from the vaudeville era is also being amassed: sheet music, costumes and more. Turnage Theatre memorabilia that AOP is looking for includes anything from lighting fixtures to programs and newspaper clippings. It’s an open call that will be ongoing.

“Anytime anybody wants to dig in their garage or their attics and they find stuff, we will welcome that,” Torrence said.

The current Turnage Theater roof replacement is a necessary step if restoring the vaudeville theater may one day be in AOP’s future—the theater has been called one of the best preserved vaudeville theaters in the country, according to historic preservationists. For now, however, the focus is on collecting the remaining pieces of its history.

For more information, call AOP at 252-946-2504.