About the Ritz

A glorious debut, a tragic fall from grace and an epic climb back to the top – the Ritz Theatre has done it all, and no less dramatically than the pantheon of stars it has showcased over the years.

The story of the Ritz Theatre begins in the brave world of the 1920s when Judge R.H. Templeton retained the services of architect/builder Matthew E. Seay to build a picture palace worthy of Wellington’s growing sophistication. Seay was an itinerant builder of sorts who moved from town to town designing and building commercial buildings. His Wellington creation cost a staggering $125,000, and was designed to send a message about the town it was created to serve.

The theater was finished in the fall of 1928, complete with a $35,000 Vitaphone and Movietone sound system – the cutting edge technology for the exhibition of “talking” movies. This was just one year after Al Jolson made movie history with “The Jazz Singer,” the first all-talking feature movie. The Ritz was as up-to-date as any theater in the nation. A grand opening was held in April, 1929.

One of the first spectacles at the Ritz came not from Hollywood, however. In October 1928, the Collingsworth County Democratic Convention was held at the new Ritz. Senator-elect Judge C.C. Small presided. Collingsworth democrats, like most Southern democrats, were struggling with the national party’s nomination of New York Gov. Al Smith for president.

The buzz among the crowd was that some might even vote for Republican Herbert Hoover in the general election. Things got stormy at the Ritz that day. Then Mrs. Lutie Templeton, the wife of the theater’s owner, resolutely stepped into the fray, defended Gov. Smith, and shamed the largely male audience into standing their ground as Democrats. In spite of Mrs. Templeton’s brave stand for Smith, Hoover won the November election, only to lose face when the Depression strangled the country a few years later.

The Ritz outlasted the Depression, the Dust Bowl, World War II and even the early days of television. But by the late 1970s, the building had grown shabby and out of date. In an attempt to update the theater, one owner tried to twin the auditorium so it could show two movies at once. During construction, movies were shown in the balcony on a makeshift screen the local kids called “the trampoline.” The theater finally closed in the early 1980s so the project could be completed, but the doors never reopened. The Ritz was left for the pigeons.

Local preservationists became alarmed in the 1990s as the building’s condition deteriorated. Several attempts were made to acquire the building, but it wasn’t until 2001 that a group led by retired teacher Gay McAlister, made progress. The new effort was launched as a mission of Historic Wellington, Inc., a newly formed nonprofit dedicated to historic preservation.

Through the leadership of City Manager Jon Sessions, the group acquired the theater and enlisted retired architect Frank Jones to oversee demolition of the ruined interior and draw up initial plans for a full restoration. Several truckloads of debris, including years of pigeon droppings, were removed from the building.

By 2004, Historic Wellington had enlisted the support of the Zephyr Foundation and other donors to rebuild the roof. Also that year, the historic neon blade sign was restored and relit during the first Ritz Block Party at the August ex-students reunion, followed later by the restored marquee.

Val and Pat White of the Zephyr Foundation brought in noted preservation architect Killis Almond of San Antonio in 2005 to finish the project. His design took in the neighboring building that once housed Castleberry Motors and later Lewis Grocery, converting the space to a concession area and dressing rooms. The interior of the 1928 auditorium was enhanced with mission-style detailing.

After two more years of construction and several generous gifts from the Zephyr Foundation, the building was ready, and so was Wellington. In short order, a new group called Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. was formed to operate the facility as a first-run movie house and live stage. A Grand re-opening ushered in the new era on Saturday, Oct. 13, 2007 with a live performance of “Sweet Dreams, Peggy Sue” presented by the Amarillo Little Theatre.
Today the theater is known across the region, and increasingly across the state, as one of the best live venues anywhere. In Wellington, it’s just known as the place to see and be seen, fulfilling its original mission to entertain the citizens of Wellington.

Why it matters

The Ritz Theatre matters because it is a physical manifestation of the soul of our community. Wellington, Texas is a small farming and ranching town. Our land and our families define our culture, while our public buildings have been somewhat a secondary attribute. Over the years, however, our town began to shrink in size. Our way of life began to fade, and our families began to fragment as relatives moved farther and farther away. Men and women who defined the pioneer spirit of our town grew old, and some of the stalwarts have passed away. Some of these changes are inevitable, but some are not. We can’t stop aging and dying. But we’ve learned that we can resurrect the buildings that played a part in defining what it means to live in Wellington, Texas. When we took the ruins of the Ritz Theatre and transformed them into a place of joy at the heart of our community, we turned back the hands of time. We struck a blow against decay and decline, and we learned that we can still shape our destiny, regardless of what happens in the world around us. The Ritz also matters to Wellington, Texas and the surrounding communities because it provides a portal for viewing the outside world and enriching our daily experiences. The nearest metropolitan area is Amarillo, Texas – 100 miles distant. And Amarillo is several hundred miles distant from what we would consider a large city. Isolation is often a blessing when it means you can still see the stars at night and still have a lengthy conversation on a misdialed phone call. But isolation also can cut us off from cultural enrichment. Since its reopening, the Ritz has played host to chamber orchestras, ballet troupes, big bands, folk singers and opera. As one local cowboy once remarked, “I’ve gotten more culture in one year than I’ve had in my whole life.” Every time the neon signs are turned on at the Ritz, and every time young people swarm the entrance just before the show starts, our world grows a little smaller and our heart beats a little harder. And when the heart of small town America beats strongly, our nation’s future is assured. For this reason, the Ritz Theatre matters, a lot.

Press Releases For Ritz Events

Frances Schmidt Memorial Concert – Guest performances by WTAMU Student and Faculty Performers
Saturday, April 9 at 2:00 | Price of admission – $20.00
WTAMU musicians to perform in memory of Ritz founder on April 9 Frances Hill Schmidt Memorial Concert to feature classical and jazz compositions WELLINGTON, Texas – Students and faculty from the West Texas A&M University School of Music will present an afternoon of music for solo and ensemble players at 3 p.m. Saturday, April 9 at the historic Ritz Theatre in Wellington.

The event honors Frances Hill Schmidt, who was past president of the Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board of directors, and organizer behind the Ritz’s first “Live at the Ritz” concert series that began shortly after the theater was restored in 2007. She passed away on April 25, 2012.

“Frances was a tireless promoter of the fine arts in the Texas Panhandle, and her dream was to enjoy live classical and jazz music in her hometown theater once it was restored,” said Melanie Baumgardner, president of the Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board. “When we reopened in 2007, Frances organized the Live at the Ritz concert series so local people could enjoy these talented musicians without having to travel, and we honor her efforts and her memory every year with a classical or jazz concert in the spring.” Students from the Texas Panhandle to El Paso to Indonesia will perform compositions that will demonstrate the great variety and rich heritage of music written for the piano. In addition to solo compositions by well-known classical composers, student composers will present original works.

WTAMU piano instructors, Dr. Choong-ha Nam and Dr. Denise Parr-Scanlin, will play a four-hands piece by French composer Francis Poulenc. The program will also feature American music through jazz improvisation and works by George Gershwin. The student performers are all undergraduate and graduate students in the piano program at WTAMU.

Tickets are $20, and sales begin for Ritz Co-Star, Producer’s Circle and Oscar Nominee members at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 11 and to the general public at 6:30 p.m. Saturday, March 12. Tickets may be purchased at the Ritz box office, over the phone at (806) 447-0090 or through the website,www.wellingtonritztheatre.com.

Attachment: Biographies of students and faculty performing on April 9 West Texas A&M University Student and Faculty Performer Biographical Information

Mark Cota is a junior majoring in piano performance and music composition. He is from Amarillo and holds the Associate Degree in Music from Amarillo College. Mark is a familiar face on the local jazz scene having played in the Amarillo and Canyon area with various ensembles. While at WT he is honing his skills in jazz as pianist for the top WT Jazz Band. After graduation, he plans to obtain a graduate degree in jazz studies.

Jesus Diaz is a piano performance major from El Paso. A recipient of the Clara Freshour music scholarship given by the Texas Association of Music Schools, he has won WTAMU’s concerto competition and performed with the WTAMU Symphony under the direction of Dr. Mark Bartley. He has also won the 2014 New Orleans Piano Institute’s concerto competition and performed with the New Orleans Civic Symphony. Recently, he participated in the 2015 Dublin International Piano Festival in Dublin, Ireland.

Jeremy Duck is a graduate student in piano performance. He is from Amarillo and received the Associate Degree in Music from Amarillo College. He graduated from WT with the Bachelor of Music Degree in 2012 and was a winner of the WT concerto competition. Having a special interest in collaborative piano playing, Jeremy spent last summer in England studying and performing at The Cornish-American Song Institute. He is a staff accompanist for the WT School of Music and Wayland Baptist University.

Lucius Haile is pursuing the Piano Performance with Pedagogy Emphasis degree and is from Stratford, TX. He serves as organist for the First United Methodist Church in Stratford and is an accompanist for voice students at WT. He has participated in the WT Piano Ensemble and was a member of the special ensemble selected to premiere a piano piece for eight hands by B.J. Brooks in the 2014 WT Showcase at the Globe News Center in Amarillo. He plans to pursue a career as a collaborative pianist.

Jino Jordan is a piano performance major from Odessa, Texas. He received the Associate Degree in Music from Odessa College, under the instruction of Linda Gayle Bizzell. While at Odessa College, he was a two time consecutive winner of the Jack Hendrix Collegiate Piano Competition, and was the 2015 recipient of the Young Musicians Award from the Tuesday Morning Music and Arts Club.
A versatile pianist, Jino serves as keyboardist for the WT Basketball Pep Band.

Margaret Sutherland is a junior composition major from Clovis, New Mexico. She teaches at the WT Music Academy and serves as the vice-president for the WT Chorale. She is the recipient of the Mercer Music Scholarship and participates in choir, piano ensembles, and the jazz band, as well as accompanies vocalists and instrumentalists. Last year she released a CD of her original compositions on the Sprig Music label. After graduation, she plans to pursue graduate work in composition.

Cong Nguyen, a graduate student in piano performance, is from Amarillo. He holds the Associate Degree in Music from Amarillo and the Bachelor of Music degree in Piano Performance from WT.He currently serves the WT School of Music as a graduate assistant. Last summer he participated in the International Festival of Music of the Adriatic in Duino, Italy and is the recipient of the Amarillo Music Teachers Association scholarship. After graduation, Cong plans to pursue a doctoral degree in music.

Misael Tambuwun is a composition major at WT. He is from Jakarta, Indonesia where he played with the Yamaha Youth Orchestra at the age of 9 and received a “Special Mention of Talent” from the St. Petersburg Conservatoire. Recently he spent a year abroad studying at the Tbilisi Conservatoire of Music (Georgia Republic) and gave a presentation at the Lucca Conservatoire (Italy). One of his compositions was premiered at the United Nations Gala Dinner in November 2015. These students are members of the WTAMU Collegiate Chapter of the Music Teachers National Association.

Ritz Starz Program Returns this July (News Release from May 13, 2015)
Program Includes Free Movies & Discounts for Members WELLINGTON, Texas – The popular children’s program “Ritz Starz” will return to the Wellington Ritz Theatre this summer. Area youth will enjoy that magic mixture of entertainment and education which has long been a summertime favorite.

Ritz Starz members will attend a free movie and listen to a short story each Monday afternoon in July. Members also receive discounts on all children’s events throughout the year, ensuring that participation pays dividends for months to come. Movies will begin each Monday at 1:00 pm and will end at approximately 3:00 pm.

Enrollment forms will be distributed at Wellington Elementary School and can be requested by contacting the Ritz. Eligible children are age four and up. Membership is valid for one year and costs $15.00 if enrolled before June 15 and $20.00 if enrolled after June 15. All former Ritz Starz members must renew their membership in order to participate.

You may return enrollment forms by bringing them to the Ritz during open hours or you may arrive early at the first event on Monday, July 6. If planning to return forms on July 6, please allow thirty minutes before the movie begins.

For more information visit www.WellingtonRitzTheatre.com, contact 806-447-0090, or email manager@wellingtonritztheatre.com.
News Release: March 20, 2015
Comedian Chonda Pierce makes Ritz Theatre appearance May 2

Christian comedian known as “The Queen of Clean”
WELLINGTON, Texas – Renowned Christian comedian Chonda Pierce brings her hilarious and inspirational take on real life to the Ritz Theatre stage at 7:30 p.m. Saturday, May 2. Pierce has been called “the funniest and most relatable comedian to ever take the stage,” and has appeared on the Grand Ole Opry stage and has been recorded in several Gaither Homecoming releases. She got her start in comedy paying her way through college as a performer at Opryland USA in Nashville, Tenn. Pierce tells of a troubled childhood, and how entertaining and making audiences laugh provided a catharsis for healing.

“I was hooked!” Pierce said of her early days on the stage. “I loved the sound of an audience laughing. It was just the medicine I needed.”

In addition to her performances, Pierce has written eight books, including Laughing in the Dark: A Comedian’s Journey Through Depression. She has five gold-certified comedy albums and two platinum albums to her name. Her comedy segments also frequently appear on XM Radio’s Laugh USA and Sirius Satellite Radio’s Blue Collar Comedy 103.

Pierce is a member of the Christian Comedy Association, but outside the comedy, she is a spokesperson for World Vision and works with various other Christian leaders and organizations.

Tickets for the event are $45 and $35, and are offered for early sale to Co-Star, Producer’s Circle and Oscar Nominee members at 6:30 p.m. Friday, March 27. Sales open to the general public at 6:30 p.m. on Saturday, March 28. Tickets may be purchased at the Ritz box office, over the phone at (806) 447-0090 or through the website, www.wellingtonritztheatre.com.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

Harrington String Quartet, mezzo-soprano Sara Baumgardner, to perform at Wellington’s Ritz Theatre, March 29
Concert to honor the memory of Frances Hill Schmidt, arts benefactor and Ritz past president
WELLINGTON, Texas – The life and contributions of Frances Hill Schmidt will be remembered with a classical concert featuring the Harrington String Quartet and a performance by mezzo-soprano Sara Baumgardner of Lubbock at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 29 at the Ritz Theatre in Wellington.

Schmidt was past president of the Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board of directors, and was the organizer behind the Ritz’s first “Live at the Ritz” concert series that began shortly after the theater was restored in 2007. She passed away on April 25, 2012.

“Our dear friend Frances Schmidt supported the arts in the Texas Panhandle through financial and volunteer assistance for many years,” said Melanie Baumgardner, current board president.

“Frances especially loved classical music, and her dream was to tap some of the finest musicians in the area and bring their music to our beautiful theater. We know Frances is here with us in spirit every time her favorite music is performed.”

Tickets for the event are $15 and go on sale for Co-Star, Producer’s Circle and Oscar Nominee members at 6:30 p.m. Thursday, Feb. 26, and to the general public beginning at 6:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 27. Tickets may be purchased at the box office, over the phone at (806) 447-0090 or through the website, www.wellingtonritztheatre.com.

The Harrington String Quartet was established by a generous gift from the late Sybil B. Harrington to benefit the Panhandle community. From its founding in 1981, the quartet has brought “stellar credentials” and “a refined sense of ensemble and musical integrity” to performances across the nation and internationally.

For more than thirty years, the quartet has delighted audiences with their finely blended sound and heart-felt interpretations of a wide spectrum of repertoire, which ranges from Bach and Purcell to Bartok and Crumb. Harrington String Quartet’s collaborative recording with the Phoenix Chorale, Northern Lights, was distinguished as iTunes’s Best Classical Vocal Album of 2012. In 2005, the quartet also released a Grammy nominated album of works by American composer Daniel McCarthy on the Albany Records label.

The Harrington String Quartet is in residence as string faculty at West Texas A&M University. Committed to both performing and teaching, the quartet regularly provides concerts, master classes, lecture-recitals and presentations for audiences of all ages, as well as collaborative projects with artists from various fields.
Current members are Rossitza Jekova-Goza, Keith Redpath, Vesselin Todorov and Emmanuel Lopez. The group will perform selections from Beethoven’s String quartet in E-flat major, Op. 127 and Bartholdy’s String Quartet in D major, Op. 44 No. 1.

Sara Baumgardner is a lyric mezzo-soprano, and the daughter of Wellington native David Baumgardner and his wife Kelley of Oak Point. Her grandparents are Bettye Baumgardner and the late David Baumgardner Sr., longtime Collingsworth County residents. Sara Baumgardner fell in love with singing as a child in church, and she began singing classically when she was in high school. She is currently in the third year of her Bachelor’s Degree in Vocal Performance at Texas Tech University; and will receive her degree in May 2016.

Baumgardner has interpreted the roles of La Zelatrice in TTU Opera Theatre’s production of Suor Angelica and Prettyella in the children’s opera Why Dinosaurs Don’t Smoke. She has also sung as a chorus member in Iolanthe and the Lubbock Moonlignt Musicals production of Les Misérables. In 2015, she will appear as the Soprano II soloist in Beethoven’s Phantasie for Mixed Chorus, Piano, and Orchestra at the TTU Scholarship Concert. She has studied at the American Institute of Musical Studies (AIMS) in Graz, Austria. Baumgardner lives, studies, and works in Lubbock.

Accompanied by Wellington pianist Mary Johnson, Baumgardner will perform selections from Gounod’s Roméo et Juliette, Strauss’s Mädchenblumen, Op. 22 (Dahn), Schuman’s The Mighty Casey, and Rossini’s La Cenerentola.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

Wellington’s Ritz Theatre celebrates 85 years of “Puttin’ on the Ritz” on April 12

Gala event pays homage to the theatre and its greatest fan, Frances Hill Schmidt
WELLINGTON, Texas – The Ritz Theatre is celebrating its 85th birthday and honoring the legacy of one of its strongest boosters, Frances Hill Schmidt, with “Puttin’ on the Ritz,” a 1920s-themed gala, from 7 to 11 p.m., Saturday, April 12.

The Ritz will be transformed into a lavish 1920s nightclub setting with the Jon Johnson South Plains Jazz Sextet providing dance music throughout the evening. The Johnson band was a favorite of the late Frances Hill Schmidt, a past president of the Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board, who created the Live at the Ritz concert series shortly after the Ritz was restored and reopened in 2007. Schmidt passed away in 2012.

“Remembering the Ritz’s 85th birthday with a jazz band is a perfect way to celebrate the birthday of the area’s finest theater and the legacy of a person who did so much to bring the Ritz back to life,” said Drew Thornberry, president of the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board of directors.

In addition to jazz, Dixieland, easy listening and dance music, the Johnson band will perform several classical selections in honor of Schmidt, an avid supporter of the arts in the Texas Panhandle.

Casino games will be set up in the Ritz dressing rooms. Ticket holders will receive chips when they arrive and can cash in their winnings for prizes.

A “Moveable Feast” full buffet will be catered by Bertie Fannie’s of Memphis in the main lobby, with desserts on the Mezzanine.

Guests are encouraged to dress in period clothing, and photographer Erin Crista will circulate throughout the crowd taking posed and candid photos. A reverse drawing will be held throughout the evening, with the final two ticket holders receiving $1,000 apiece.

Tickets may be purchased online at www.wellingtonritztheatre.com or by calling the Ritz at (806) 447-0090. Tickets may also be purchased from any Wellington Ritz Theatre board member. Cost is $100 per couple.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

Ronnie Milsap November 16, 2013 at 7:30

Ronnie Milsap reaches for his country roots on Ritz stage Nov. 16
WELLINGTON, Texas – Legendary country singer Ronnie Milsap brings a new sound of old country to the Ritz stage in a showcase of classics and new hit songs alike on Saturday, Nov. 16 at 7:30 p.m.

The show is brought to Wellington through the support of OJD Engineering, LLP and Greenbelt Electric Cooperative. Ritz members at the Co-Star, Producer’s Circle, and Oscar Nominee levels are eligible for advance ticket purchasing on Thursday, September 12, 2013 beginning at 6:30 p.m. Ticket prices are $65 for premium seating and $60 for non-premium seating. All ticket prices will increase the week of the event. Ticket sales for the general public begin on September 19, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.

Millsap comes to the Ritz on the heels of releasing “Country Again” – his first country-oriented album in six years. He’s known as a rangy, emotional singer who has taken home four Country Music Association male vocalist of the year prizes and six Grammy Awards.

According to RonnieMilsap.com, Milsap was born in the mountain town of Robbinsville, N.C. He was raised by his bluegrass-loving father and by his grandparents in the unincorporated Meadow Branch community in western North Carolina. Each weekend, the struggling family gathered around a battery powered radio and tuned in to the Grand Ole Opry on WSM, listening to Roy Acuff, Ernest Tubb and other greats. He attended a school for the blind in Raleigh, enduring abusive treatment from some staff members and emerging with enhanced musical knowledge and a love of rock, pop and other non-Appalachian forms of music.

When Milsap arrived in Nashville in the early 1970s, he was best known in Tennessee for the blues and rock music he’d been playing in Memphis clubs. But after he and Jack Johnson recorded a three-song demo and showed it to Jerry Bradley at RCA Records, he proved his country credentials. He became country music’s first successful blind singer, and one of the most successful and versatile country “crossover” singers of his time, appealing to both country and pop music markets with hit songs that incorporated pop, R&B, and rock and roll elements. His biggest crossover hits include “It Was Almost Like a Song,” “Smoky Mountain Rain,” “(There’s) No Gettin’ Over Me,” “I Wouldn’t Have Missed It for the World,” “Any Day Now,” and “Stranger in My House” In addition to his six Grammy awards, Milsap recorded 40 No. 1 country hits, third to George Strait and Conway Twitty.

“Ronnie Milsap is one of the biggest names in the business, and we’re excited to have him on the Ritz stage for the very first time,” said Melanie Baumgardner, president of the board of Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. “We’re hoping to fill every seat for this special musical event.”

Beginning September 19th, tickets may be purchased by stopping by or calling the Ritz box office at (806) 447-0090 between 6:00 and 10 p.m. After the 19th you may purchase tickets during normal business hours, 6:30 to 10 p.m., Thursday through Sunday, or online at www.wellingtonritztheatre.com. Outside of box office hours, callers are encouraged to leave their name and number on the Ritz voicemail to receive a call back.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

Storybook Theatre brings children’s books to life at Ritz on Oct. 28, 2013

WELLINGTON, Texas – Storybook Theatre of Texas, through support from the Texas Commission on the Arts, plans three performances at the Ritz Theatre in Wellington on Monday, October 28, 2013, bringing to life children’s literature through costumes, props, acting and singing.

The evening will begin at 6:30 with the Ritz Halloween Spooktacular Costume Contest. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes. Tickets are available online at www.WellingtonRitzTheatre.com., at the box office or by phone at 806-447-0090. Ticket Prices are $8 for Adults, $6 for Children and $4 for Ritz Starz Memberz. (Ritz Starz discount tickets must be purchased at the box office. Be prepared to show your Ritz Starz Membership card.) This event will be reserved seating so everyone is encouraged to purchase their tickets early to get the best seats! Following the Spooktacular Costume Contest, Storybook Theatre presents “Two Pigs and T.H.E. Wolf” at 7:00 p.m.

The children of Wellington Elementary School will be treated to two performances of Amelia Bedelia stories, 8:30 and 10:00 am.

Storybook Theatre was founded in 1991 by Lynn Draper and her sister Christi Stuebben, and has since presented to more than 600,000 and adults at schools, festivals, teacher workshops, churches, businesses and other events across America. Recognized by the Texas Commission on the Arts and the Heartland Arts Fund, Storybook Theatre is one of the most popular and sought-after children’s groups in the country.

Often classified as “edutainers,” they combine entertainment skills and education techniques in a manner that creates a desire in young minds to excel in reading. Each team member has studied and taught dramatic presentations on and off stage. They have enriched and broadened their teaching skills by traveling and living in many places throughout the world.

“The Ritz is more than just a spectacular entertainment venue in our region – it’s also a place to learn,” said Melanie Baumgardner, president of the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board of directors. “We’re grateful to the Texas Commission on the Arts for recognizing the role the Ritz plays in enriching young minds through arts, culture and literature.”

The Ritz was built in 1928. The doors were closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

‘Ritz Starz’ summer children’s programming returns for July

WELLINGTON, Texas – Wellington’s Ritz Theatre, in partnership with the Texas Commission on the Arts (TCA), opens its annual “Ritz Starz” summer children’s programming on Monday, July 1, featuring the Disney Nature Series every Monday through the end of the month.

The program is open for children ages 4 and older, and features “Starz Storiez” read to the children by members of the community, followed by a Disney film on various nature themes. For children enrolled by June 23, cost is $15 for the entire month of programs. After June 23, the cost will increase to $20, or a one-day pass can be purchased for $5.

Starz Memberz will receive discounted tickets on special events throughout the year and a voucher for free admission to one regular movie.

The events for this year’s Ritz Starz Program are:

July 1 (1 p.m.) – Earth
An epic story of adventure, starring some of the most magnificent and courageous creatures alive, awaits you in Earth. Disney Nature brings you a remarkable story, narrated by James Earl Jones, of three animal families on a journey across our planet – polar bears, elephants and humpback whales.

July 8 (1 p.m.) – Oceans
Journey in to the depths of a wonderland filled with mystery, beauty and power. “Oceans” is a spectacular story, narrated by Pierce Brosnan, about remarkable creatures under the sea. It’s an unprecedented look at the lives of these elusive deepwater creatures through their own eyes. Incredible state-of-the-art-underwater filmmaking will take your breath away as you migrate with whales, swim alongside a great white shark and race with dolphins at play.

July 15 (2 p.m.) – TCA Program: Story Book Theatre presents “Goldifox and the Two Hares”
A fun, live theatrical performance! Incorporating nutrition facts, familiar sayings, and twists on nursery rhymes. This highly interactive show is sure to be a hit!

July 22 (1 p.m.) – African Cats
An epic true story set against the backdrop of one of the wildest places on Earth, “African Cats” captures the real-life love, humor, and determination of the majestic kings of the savanna. Narrated by Samuel L. Jackson, the story features Mara, an endearing lion cub who strives to grow up with her mother’s strength, sprit, and wisdom; Sita, a fearless cheetah and single mother of five mischievous newborns; and Fang, a proud leader of the pride who must defend his family from a rival lion and his sons.

July 29 (1 p.m.) – Chimpanzee
Journey deep into the African rainforest and meet Oscar, an adorable young chimp with an entertaining approach to life, and a remarkable story of individual triumph and family bonds. The world is a playground for little Oscar and his fellow young chimps who love creating mayhem. Full of curiosity, a zest for discovery, joy and a love for mimicking others, Oscar — and his family — navigate the complex territory of the forest. It’s an inspiring and life-changing adventure, narrated by Tim Allen, that overflows with courage and charm that will capture your heart.

The Ritz mixes the classics and jazz in March event
honoring the memory of arts benefactor Frances Hill Schmidt

News Release, January 18, 2013
WELLINGTON, Texas – The life and contributions of Frances Hill Schmidt will be remembered with a classical and jazz concert at 2 p.m. Sunday, March 3 at the Ritz Theatre in Wellington.
Topping the bill are Amarillo pianist David Palmer, Lubbock violinist Annie Chalex Boyle and Amarillo’s Polk Street Jazz.

Schmidt was past president of the Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board of directors, and was the organizer behind the Ritz’s first “Live at the Ritz” concert series that began shortly after the theater was restored in 2007. She passed away on April 25, 2012.

“Long before the Ritz reopened Frances was a promoter of the arts and supporter of education in the Wellington community,” said Melanie Baumgardner, current board president. “She also supported the arts in Amarillo and the Texas Panhandle through financial and volunteer assistance, and she was well known in the area’s arts community.
“This concert combines two of her favorite musical styles and brings to our stage some area performers who considered Frances a close friend.”

Tickets for the event are $20 and can be purchased at the box office, over the phone at (806) 447-0090 or through the website, www.wellingtonritztheatre.com.
Pianist David Palmer has performed throughout the United States and Europe since the early 1990’s, both as soloist and chamber musician. Palmer has performed with such orchestras as the Wichita Symphony, The American Sinfonietta, The Scottsdale Symphony Orchestra, The Amarillo Symphonies’ Randel Chamber Orchestra, The Amarillo Virtuosi and the Arizona State University Orchestra. In addition to his performing career, Palmer is the executive/artistic director and founder of Chamber Music Amarillo and served as artistic director of the Quartz Mountain Music Festival in Oklahoma from 2006-2011.

Violinist Annie Chalex Boyle is internationally recognized as a chamber musician, soloist, and teacher. She is currently a professor of violin at Texas Tech University and a member of the Botticelli String Quartet. As a founding member of Quartet-à-tête Piano Quartet, with violist Joanna Mendoza, cellist Jeffrey Lastrapes, and pianist David Palmer, she performs in venues across the country. Before moving to Lubbock, she taught violin at the Interlochen Arts Academy in Michigan, was the director of educational activities with Chamber Music North, and was the artistic director of the Chamber Music Institute at the Quartz Mountain Music Festival. She has been the first violinist of the Harrington String Quartet, concertmaster of the Amarillo Symphony, and was a faculty member at West Texas A&M University.

Polk Street Jazz is a five-piece jazz ensemble featuring Jim Gardner on the piano, Doug Storey on clarinet and sax, the vocal talents of Sandy Storey, Nick Scales on basses, and Susan Martin Tariq, percussion. The group appears regularly on stage and at special events in Amarillo, and has performed on the Ritz stage before.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

Amarillo violinist Keith Redpath brings Sonata Favorites to the Ritz

Press Release, November 27, 2012

WELLINGTON, Texas – Keith Redpath, a violinist with the Harrington String Quartet and the Amarillo Symphony, will perform “Sonata Favorites” at 2 p.m. Sunday, Dec. 16 at the Ritz Theatre in Wellington.

Redpath will be accompanied by Choong-ha Nam on the piano. The program will feature sonatas by Mozart, Revel and Brahams. Admission is $10, and tickets may be reserved online at www.wellingtonritztheatre.com or by calling the Ritz at (806) 447-0090.

Since 2003, Redpath has taught violin and chamber music as a faculty member at West Texas A&M University while continuing a performing career as 2nd violinist of the Harrington String Quartet and as Principal 2nd violinist of the Amarillo Symphony.

As a member of the Harrington String Quartet, he has performed across the United States and Canada, including a Carnegie Hall debut in 2004. These concerts have included collaborations with many of the country’s finest chamber musicians. He can be heard with the Harrington Quartet on the Grammy nominated CD of the music of Daniel McCarthy on the Albany Records label. The quartet also collaborated with the Grammy winning Phoenix Chorale to record works by Ola Gjeilo for the Chandos CD, Northern Lights, released in 2011.

In recent years, Redpath has appeared as a soloist with the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, the Sewanee Summer Music Festival Orchestra, and Chamber Music Amarillo’s Virtuosi. Redpath has been a member of the artist faculty at the Interlochen Arts Camp, the Eastern Music Festival, and the Sewanee Summer Music Festival. He has performed at several other national and international music festivals including the Spoleto Festival (South Carolina and Italy), the Quartz Mountain Music Festival (Oklahoma), the Hot Springs Music Festival, Chamber Music at the Barn (Kansas), and the Heidelberg Scholssfestspiele.

In addition to performing as the principal second violinist of the Amarillo Symphony Orchestra, Redpath has held positions as principal 2nd violinist of the Wichita Symphony, concertmaster of the Amarillo Opera Orchestra, and with the Minnesota Orchestra, the Minnesota Opera Orchestra, and the Pacific Symphony. He holds degrees from the Eastman School of Music, Wichita State University, and the University of Minnesota.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board.

Ritz Hosts Marionette Presentation of “PINOCCHIO”

(Press release October 3, 2012)
The Ritz Theatre will host Le Theatre de Marionette with their presentation of Pinocchio on Monday, October 29, 2012. The evening will begin at 6:30 with the Ritz Halloween Spooktacular Costume Contest. Prizes will be awarded for best costumes. The marionette puppet show will begin at 7:00 p.m. Tickets are available online at www.WellingtonRitzTheatre.com, at the box office or by phone at 806-447-0090. Ticket Prices are $8 for Adults, $6 for Children and $4 for Ritz Starz Memberz. (Ritz Starz discount tickets must be purchased at the box office.) This event will be reserved seating so everyone is encouraged to purchase their tickets early to get the best seats! The Ritz is proud to have Le Theatre de Marionette return to Wellington. Their first performance, “The Wizard of Oz” was very entertaining. “We are excited to bring the art of puppetry to Wellington”, stated Melanie Baumgardner, Board President. “This event will be a night of fun for the entire family.”

The Ritz Halloween Spooktacular is an all-day event. The children of Wellington Elementary School will be treated to a marionette performance “Spooky Strings” followed by a marionette workshop at The Ritz during the school day. That evening, everyone is encouraged to come dressed in their favorite Halloween costume. All costumed guests will have the option of registering for the costume contest upon arrival. Prizes will be awarded at the end of the marionette performance.

Le Theatre de Marionette, a Texas original, presents a marionette puppet adaption of the familiar classic, Pinocchio. A family event unlike any other, theatergoers will reacquaint themselves with “the little wooden boy”, Gepetto, the Blue Fairy and a cast of beautiful, hand-crafted string puppets in this string version of the children’s classic originally written by Carlo Collodi and adapted for the puppet stage by the late Pady Blackwood of “The Howdy Doody Show” renown.

Join Pinocchio on his way to school as he’s continually tempted and distracted by everything and everyone crossing his path like Stromboli’s puppet show, a quarter-thieving Cat and Fox, and a wicked Ringmaster who turns Pinocchio into a donkey. Can Pinocchio ever follow the Blue Fairy’s wisdom of being truthful and honest and will he be able to save himself and Gepetto from the belly of a whale? Find out in this must-see for the entire family that is sure to delight, with a running time of 45 minutes, Le Theatre’s Pinocchio is recommended for families with children age 3 and up.

Kids and families love puppets shows, and Le Theatre de Marionette has entertained children and adults since 1985, and the DFW-based troupe continues to perform European-style marionette puppetry in popular venues such as the Texas State Fair, Six Flags, Fort Worth Zoo, Dallas Zoo, The Dallas Museum of Art, The Nasher Sculpture Center as well as Dallas ISD, Fort Worth ISD and surrounding urban and rural school districts, libraries and museums.
Le Theatre is represented by B3 Entertainment, Junior Players, Big Thought and the Texas Commission on the Arts. More information about Le Theatre’s marionette shows and interactive workshops is available at www.letheatredemarionette.com.

Ritz Theatre Presents Oak Ridge Boys, LIVE November 10, 2012

(Press Release August 27, 2012)
The Oak Ridge Boys, renowned for their four-part harmonies and upbeat country and gospel songs, will be performing live at the Ritz Theatre in Wellington, Texas on November 10, 2012 at 7:30 p.m.
The Oak Ridge Boys current lineup of lead singer Duane Allen, bass Richard Sterban, tenor Joe Bonsall and baritone William Lee Golden, came together in 1973 to form one of country music’s legendary acts. Allen describes their music as “gospel mixed with country, blues and rock and roll.”

They’ve sold more than 30 million records and had more than a dozen national No. 1 singles, including “Elvira,” “Bobbie Sue,” Thanks God for Kids” and “American Made.” They released another album, “It’s Only Natural,” last year and bring their high-energy stage show to audiences 150 times a year.

The Ritz Theatre can seat 400 people and with over 120 tickets pre-purchased by event sponsors, there are only 280 tickets available. All “Producer’s Circle” and “Co-Star” level 2012-2013 Live at The Ritz members will be contacted this week by Melanie Baumgardner. Members at this level will have priority ticket purchasing prior to public ticket sales. This group will also be invited to a Pre-Concert Gala at The Ritz the night of The Oak Ridge Boys Concert. If you would like to become a member or upgrade to a higher membership level, you may do so during normal Ritz movie hours Thursday, Friday or Saturday evenings (Aug 30 – Sept 1) or by contacting a Ritz Board Member. “Producer’s Circle” and “Co-Star” level memberships (and upgrades) received on or before September 1 will be guaranteed priority ticketing for this event.

“We are expecting to have a record number of tickets sold on Sunday,” Melanie Baumgardner, President of the Ritz Board said. “There has been a lot of interest shown in this concert and we are anticipating a sold-out performance. We want to encourage everyone to get their tickets as early as possible.”

Tickets for The Oak Ridge Boys go on sale to the general public on Sunday, September 2, 2012 at 8:00 p.m. Ticket prices are $55 for premium seating and $45 for general seating. Staff will be at the Ritz Sunday evening from 8 to 10 p.m. and again Monday morning from 10 a.m. until noon for ticket purchases. Tickets may also be purchased by calling the Ritz at 806-447-0090 or online at www.WellingtonRitzTheatre.com. Online ticket purchasing will be available at a flat rate of $55 per ticket with no additional “convenience fees.” If you call the Ritz to purchase tickets by phone and you reach the answering machine, please remember to leave a message with your name and telephone number. All messages received on the answering machine from 8 p.m. to 10 p.m. on the 2nd will receive a return phone call that night. Ticket prices will increase to $55 and $65 on the day of the event.

The Oak Ridge Boys are presented in part by top-tier sponsor, Wellington State Bank, and contributing sponsor, Greenbelt Electric Coop.

Wellington’s Ritz Theatre Installs Digital Projection System

(Press release June 18, 2012)
WELLINGTON, Texas – The Vitaphone men from Chicago brought “talkies” to this rural Texas Panhandle town in 1929 and transformed the movie experience for folks in Collingsworth County.

Now, 83 years down the road, men from another far-off city are revolutionizing the way movies are shown once again, this time in the form of a digital projection system.

Commercial Sound Services of Houston will have two representatives in Wellington this week installing equipment from Fountain Valley, Calif.-based Moving Image Technolgies (MiT). The Ritz will have a new NEC digital projector and a GDC cinema server that allows Ritz management to download movies for showing. Another representative from Hometown Engineering of Tishomingo, Okla. (a unit of Hometown Entertainment) will install a custom-built computer used to control the system’s software. The installation is scheduled for completion by June 22, when the Ritz will show its first movie on the digital system.

Total cost for the new system is around $60,000, according to Ritz Theatre Manager Linda Duke.
“As we understand it, the entire movie industry will phase out 35-millimeter film completely by the end of 2013,” Duke said. “These movies were increasingly more difficult for us to get. If we didn’t open a movie the day it came out, we might have to wait six weeks to get a copy. This should not be a problem with digital cinema.”

Partial funding for the new system comes from a $10,000 prize the Ritz won last year by placing second in the National Trust for Historic Preservation’s “This Place Matters” campaign, with additional support from Monsanto’s “America’s Farmers Grow Communities” project. Farmers who are customers of Monsanto had an opportunity to win $2500 for a nonprofit organization in their county. Collingsworth County farmer Rusty Statham won the drawing for Collingsworth County and chose the Ritz to receive the award.

The Ritz was built in 1928, and formally opened in 1929 as the first “talking” movie theater in the county and one of the first in the region. It used the Vitaphone and Movietone systems that brought silent movies to life through synchronized sound. The Ritz closed in the early 1980s and fell into ruin until a local group, Historic Wellington, rescued the building and launched a restoration effort. The Mission-Revival theater was completely rebuilt with community support and reopened in 2007, and shows first-run movies and stages live musical and theatrical events. It is managed by the nonprofit Wellington Ritz Theatre, Inc. board. For more information and news on upcoming movies and events, go to www.wellingtonritztheatre.com.