Proctors Journey

Photographer Ronda Anderson reveals over 30 years of change at classic Schenectady vaudeville hall

An empty dressing room, eerie sunlight peeking in, suggesting stories of days gone by; a brightly painted dressing table, signed by the cast, a glimmer of now.

These kind of juxtapositions — the ship-like rigging of the original Proctors stage contrasted with the high-tech system of today — are at the heart of photographer Ronda Anderson’s beautiful exhibit A Personal Journey of Our Theatre, which opens 6 p.m. Thursday, March 31 at the Fenimore Gallery at Proctors, 432 State Street, Schenectady (admission is free).

Anderson, a longtime volunteer at the theatre, began capturing images of the building’s interior in the mid-1980s. Then house manager Bob Warlock approved of Anderson’s efforts, setting her off on a path she still travels, three cameras and as many decades later.

Her goal was to distill what she calls, “the wow factor of Proctors.”

“As a photographer, I can bring people into the secret spaces of the theatre—the narrow catwalks above the chandelier, the projector room with its decades of graffiti, the breathtaking height of the fly loft, the quiet grace of the dressing rooms and the most curious corners of the basement.”

Anderson aimed, literally, at the aesthetic value of the image, letting the photo tell its story rather than working in documentary fashion. To that end, she felt free to manipulate potential spaces, moving curtains aside, changing the angle of a chair or dimming the room.

Anderson, who studied with Life magazine lensman John Loengard at Maine Media Workshops, says preparing the 30 images in the show did present technical challenges, as the early work was developed traditionally in black and white and more recent sessions made use of digital color.

But her eye was always the judge.

“I’m a student of light. Light is very important to me.”

So, it seems, is imagination.

“Void of people, one can picture themselves in the photos, or dream of who might have been there.”

The show will also feature new images from Capital Repertory Theatre and Universal Preservation Hall.

A Personal Journey of Our Theatre runs through April 29.