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Tulsa Spotlight Theatre
Bruce Goff designed the Riverside Studio for music teacher Patti Adams Shriner to serve as her residence and music studio. Completed in 1928, the building was a major project for the young architect. The design clearly references precepts of the emerging International Style, particularly in its white stucco exterior walls and flat-roofed rectilinear forms. Located along the Arkansas River in Tulsa, Goff used the steep site to great advantage in creating a composition of cubic forms cascading down the hill. The irregular plan featured projecting wings combined with roofs of varying heights. On the interior, the living room was originally paneled in grey-green wood imported from Japan with an aluminum leafed ceiling and fireplace finished with green marble and black glass.
Goff firmly believed that it was essential to not simply satisfy a client’s programmatic requirements but to provide deeper meaning in his design. In his search for original and meaningful expression, Goff frequently collaborated with sculptors and painters. For Shriner’s home and studio, Goff had a clear sense of his objective, as he made clear to Italian-American sculptor Alfonso Iannelli: “It is a beautiful opportunity to express the intimate relation of music and architecture, in which I am a firm believer.” The most prominent feature of the building is the two-story entrance hall on the west elevation, which offered an ideal opportunity for Goff to visualize relationships between architecture and music. The perforations on player piano rolls inspired his pattern of stepped rectangular windows alternating with black glass tile. The large circular window in the foyer, overlooking the river, has an abstract geometric pattern etched in the glass that was derived from musical scores Goff composed while he was working on the design.
Iannelli designed a fountain at the entry that furthered the musical references. Water dripped over an abstract marble sculpture into cascading chromium cups of varying size to create music-like tones as water splashed into the pool below. On the interior, artist Olinka Hrdy painted abstract wall murals whose rich colors, patterns, and rhythms continued the theme. The foyer panel depicted the “Symphony of the Arts” and included expressions of painting, architecture, music, and dance. Eight other panels in the Recital Hall represented various types of music. Measuring sixteen feet tall by five feet wide, the murals were folded ninety-degrees to extend onto the ceiling.
In 1933, in the wake of the Great Depression, Shriner lost ownership of the building. The house changed hands throughout the decade but in 1941 actor Richard Mansfield Dickinson purchased it. In 1953, he opened it to the public as the Tulsa Spotlight Club, presenting his adaptation of The Drunkard, a nineteenth-century temperance play. At some unknown date, Hrdy’s murals disappeared and Iannelli’s fountain was reduced to fragments. The building itself has signs of deterioration. The Tulsa Spotlighters, Inc., a nonprofit organization that now owns and maintains the building, has initiated fundraising for the rehabilitation of the Riverside Studio. Now known as the Spotlight Theatre, the building is host to plays, variety shows, and children’s theater performances.
Henderson, Arn, “Riverside Studio,” Tulsa County, Oklahoma. National Register of Historic Places Registration Form, 1999. National Park Service, U.S. Department of the Interior, Washington, D.C.
Krehbiel, Randy. “Riverside Studio's hillside hideaway has art deco spotlighted.” Tulsa World, April 22, 2001.
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