The Beginning of a Beautiful Screening

Staff photo by Gage Cureton Carolyn Borgen, consulting marketing director, and Richard Tostenson, vice-president, stand near a sign displayed in State Street Theater Co.’s new entrance which was recently reopened for Friday evening’s “Golden Age of Hollywood Fundraiser” featuring a showing of the 1942 American film “Casablanca.” The Friday event is a part of a long list of activities SSTC plans to offer including a new orchestra planned to debut in January 2020. “We’re really trying to offer New Ulm and the region a wide range of activities,” Borgen said.

NEW ULM — Of all the gin joints, in all the towns, in all the world, State Street Theater Co. wants you to walk into their own.

State Street Theater Co. (SSTC) is debuting the classic American film “Casablanca” Friday as a part of its “Golden Age of Hollywood Fundraiser” — red carpet and all.

Drawing on the elegance and pomp of 1940s movie premiers, SSTC Vice-President Richard Tostenson said attendees have the chance to enjoy the flare of a time lost to history.

“I think just the idea of being able to step back in time and enjoying an evening out without all the ongoings that are happening in our world today,” Tostenson said. “We’re so busy with our lives that it’s hard to step-out and step-back.”

“Casablanca,” a 1942 American romantic drama film starring Humphrey Bogart, Ingrid Bergman and Paul Henreid, tells the story of an American expatriate and bar owner who struggles to decide whether or not he should help his former lover and her fugitive husband escape Vichy-controlled French Morocco during the early years of World War II.

Set amongst a brooding atmosphere that was characteristic of films of the time period, the film doubled not only as entertainment, but as a means to show people what smaller countries would have been experiencing under occupation from hostile countries, Tostenson said.

“It was produced for people to understand what was happening,” Tostenson said. “The intensity and even the need to escape from that tyranny, and that’s what Casablanca was all about, trying to get your last ticket before the invasion.”

The film was rushed into release to take advantage of the publicity from the Allied Invasion of North Africa that occurred weeks earlier and later went on to win the Academy Award for Best Picture.

The evening includes a variety of events and opportunities for attendees to travel back in time to a foreign country including certain ticket-holders who may enjoy a Moroccan-themed meal with champagne in the “Casablanca”-inspired Rick’s Cafe Americana.

“There will be 1930s and 1940s music,” Tostenson said. “All the hits from ‘Casablanca’ will be sung and played. There’s some actors that will be playing the major characters from the movie that will be intermingled with our guests.”

From Rick’s Cafe, people may then proceed to the “Arifa Airport Lounge” for a dessert of cheesecake and chocolates accompanied by adult beverages.

“We’re actually going to have a gin bar set up,” Tostenson said. “Aside from a regular bar there will be a specialty bar and they’ll be serving well-known gin drinks from the era.”

Before the movie screening at 7:30 p.m., attendees also have the chance take a walk on the red carpet to their movie seatings as paparazzi snap photos.

However, SSTC Consulting Marketing Director Carolyn Borgen said the chance to enjoy a meal with champagne in Rick’s Cafe is dwindling fast.

Access to Rick’s Cafe and the Moroccan meal is limited to VIP ticket holders, which have already sold out, Borgen said. But all other ticket holders such as those who purchased $25 tickets for the airport linge access may still grab a drink from the gin bar.

“They’ll have access to the gin bar,” she said. “It’s just right there.”

Friday evening’s debut also provides an opportunity for SSTC, Tostenson said.

“We’ll be debuting our new usher and bartender uniforms which are [1930s style],” he said. “It’ll be a first for the theater for that one.”

The new bartender uniform includes a cutaway burgundy jacket with brass buttons, bowties and cumber-buttons.

“The bartenders will wear the traditional bartender apron with the bowtie and they’ll all be set to go,” he said.

The uniforms for the ushers and bartenders will be a permanent addition to SSTC and future events so that the theater can stay in “keeping the tone and tenure” of when it opened in 1938.

In addition to the new uniforms, SSTC is also starting a local orchestra in New Ulm with plans to debut in January 2020.

“That’s a first for here,” Tostenson said. “There’s a lot of interest in that. We also have the ballroom dancing, we’ve got our theater productions going on, the movies going on and now we’re going to be introducing an orchestra.”

“We’re really trying to offer New Ulm and the region a wide range of activities,” Borgen said. “We’re trying to move past the middle school auditorium and be seen as a regional theater arts center.”

Borgen and Tostenson said attendees are encouraged to show up in their best formal dress. “Black tie is admired but not required,” they said.

General seating tickets are available for purchase at the theater doors to view for $10. General seating begins at 7:30 p.m. “Casablanca” is rated PG with a total running time of one hour and 42 minutes.

Tickets for Friday’s showing may be purchased Thursday at the New Ulm Chamber of Commerce or online at statestreetNEWULM.org. General seating tickets are available in advance and at the door the day of the event.

Gage Cureton can be emailed at gcureton@nujournal.com.