224 Eighth Street
Cairo, IL 62914
Seats: 685 (907?)
The Gem Theatre opened when Cairo, IL was still a bustling transportation hub. As the railroads bypassed the city and siphoned off river traffic, the town began a long, slow decline. The theatre was gutted by fire in 1934 but rebuilt two years later. The theatre finally closed in 1978 and after failed preservation efforts by the city and state in the 2000s, was in pretty desperate shape when I visited in 2011.
There are roughly three New Yorks. There is, first, the New York of the man or woman who was born there, who takes the city for granted and accepts its size, its turbulence as natural and inevitable. Second, there is the New York of the commuter — the city that is devoured by locusts each day and spat out each night. Third, there is New York of the person who was born somewhere else and came to New York in quest of something... Commuters give the city its tidal restlessness, natives give it solidity and continuity, but the settlers give it passion. (E.B. White)