Opened in 1924, Park Theatre was a major hub of Cranston's cultural scene for nearly 80 years. But in 2002, the projectors were shut off, the doors were locked, and the silver screens were melted down for cutlery. That closure was not to last, however. In 2009, Cranston Mayor Allan W. Fung oversaw the grand re-opening, which introduced brand-new features such as a deeper stage, nearly 1,000 plush red seats, and the Stage Door Restaurant and Lounge.
It’s the making of a hit movie. Young Jeff Allen of Providence—untrained in the world of movement, but driven by desire—starts attending social dances. It's there he learns dances such as the jitterbug, cha-cha, and lindy, and develops a taste for competition. Soon, he's winning every dance contest he enters, whether the genre is disco, ballroom, or argentine tango.
Channeling his penchant for victory into a teaching career, the self-taught hoofer transformed into an acclaimed teacher and coach, racking up more than 30 National Dance Council of America Top Teacher Awards, and holding membership credentials with the North American Dance Teachers Association. At his studio, he keeps a packed schedule, teaching west coast swing dancing, mambo, and even Dancing Dirty–style moves. For those who can't make their ways to Cranston, Jeff has produced a slew of instructional books and DVDs, including The Complete Idiots' Guide to Ballroom Dancing and The Complete Guide to Slow Dancing.
In 2006, friends Mike and Courtney—independent researcher for the historical society and ghost tour guide, respectively—drew up a unique business plan to spook Providence locals and tourists alike with fact-based ghost tours. Their combined interests in the paranormal and knack for research led them to pillage the minds of staff members and records at the Providence Historical Society, the public library, and the Rhode Island State Archives for accounts of abnormal and violent events. They dug through old files and microforms of oft-forgotten morbid events—including murders, suicides, and fires—gathering facts to present objective stories about real people. Once they’d crammed their skeptical minds with grim and gloomy facts, the tours were ready to begin. Today, these truthful and skeptical accounts of paranormal activity chill the spines of tourists and terrified library books as guides lead walking tours, lit by lantern, through centuries-old Providence streets. Since its inception, Providence Ghost Tour has been counted among TripAdvisor's top 10 ghost tours in America, and was featured on an overnight paranormal investigation with Syfy's Ghost Hunters frontmen, Brian Harnois and Keith Johnson.
Since 1993, Cirque Dreams' family-friendly variety extravaganzas have called upon a cast of acrobats, strongmen, and daredevils to wring the oohs and aahs out of audiences with tremendous feats of derring-do. During each themed production, more than 100 performers garbed in dazzling outfits twirl high in the air, contort their bodies into impossible shapes, and solve long division problems to earn uproarious applause from the crowd. At Dream Studios in Pompano Beach, Florida, hundreds of contracted artists from around the world develop their skills and prep for Cirque Dreams performances under the direction of Neil Goldberg and his team of choreographers, contortionists, and designers.
For six days, a celebration of culture takes over Providence. The annual SENE Film, Music & Arts Festival gives a voice to independent creators of cinema, music, and visual art?as well as audience members themselves. Attendees vote for their favorite shorts, documentaries, and feature films in dozens of categories. They can even meet the artists behind the works during director Q&A sessions where they can learn how the film was made and why Smell-O-Vision has never really taken off. The Limelight party allows guests to relax and mingle with other creative types while admiring an art exhibit and enjoying hors d'oeuvres, complimentary beer and wine, and light desserts.
With a variety of foreign and independent talkies, Cable Car Cinema & Cafe entertains all who venture into its newly refurbished interior. Film fanatics can experience Tony Stone's Out Of Our Minds, a 28-minute exploration of mythology, music, and imagery as conceived by musician Melissa Auf der Maur (formerly of Hole and the Smashing Pumpkins). Beijing Taxi is a documentary that explores perceptions of the metamorphic Chinese capital from the points of view of three taxi drivers, and Total Badass portrays Austin's underground scene, counter-culturally interpreted by local deviant Chad Holt.