Historical Events Al. Ringling Theatre, Baraboo Wisconsin

The opening of the Al. Ringling Theatre was hailed at the time as the greatest event in the history of Baraboo. The date was November I7, 1915, the show, Lady Luxury, a comic opera starring Florence Webber. E. G. Olson played the Wurlitzer organ. In attendance at the opening were all of the Ringling brothers with the exception of John, and Wisconsin Governor Emanuel L. Phillip, a native of Baraboo. The Governor spoke to the audience from his place of honor in the right hand proscenium box.

The praise that accompanied the opening of the theatre is typified by two items from the Baraboo Daily News of the following day; first is one of formal praise; the second an indirect reference to the theatre:


"It must be a source of gratification to Al. Ringling to know that his efforts in providing a playhouse in Baraboo is so much appreciated by his fellow townspeople. Every seat in the house was sold in four hours and hundreds were disappointed in not being able to be present at the first performance in order to show their appreciation to the one who made possible this fine building. Not only was the public demonstration in the park last summer a sincere mark of esteem but all along his thoughtfulness has been mentioned far and wide in the most kindly manner. The erection of the building means pleasure for many thousands in Baraboo and the territory round about while the owner has felt a zest in the successful realization of his desire. Ever since the destruction by fire of the old opera house a number of years ago, there has been no adequate stage where actors could play well their parts, but now Baraboo has a place, the beauty of which few cities the size of Baraboo can boast. For the theatre going public, for the stage folk and for Mr. Ringling, the erection of the playhouse is more than a pleasing pleasure. It is a beautiful memorial to the days when Mr. Ringling as a boy in Baraboo enjoyed giving pleasure to others. He can feel today that the opening of his opera house marks a new era of enjoyment for him and his fellow townspeople."


"Your picture, delicately colored, in the gown worn at the opening of the Al. Ringling Theatre, will be as priceless in the years to come as the old miniatures. Trimpey's studio is making appointments now for these pictures for Christmas gifts."

The Al. Ringling Theatre was built with the intention of providing Baraboo with a multi-purpose entertainment facility. Although for most of its existence it has been a moving picture theatre, it has complete provisions for stage performances. In the early years Baraboo was fortunate in being able to host touring companies of major Broadway productions which would pause at Baraboo en route to Minneapolis from either Chicago or Milwaukee. During the first fourteen years the Al. Ringling Theatre was in operation there were 109 touring shows presented on its stage. With the coming of sound pictures, such productions were discontinued, but the theatre's stage equipment remained intact, now providing facilities for annual productions by the Baraboo Theatre Guild, the National Shakespeare Company, and newly revived presentations of old-time vaudeville.