Tahlequah Daily Press


April 26, 2013

Theater evolving into music venue

TAHLEQUAH — The Dream Theater has long been an iconic segment of Tahlequah’s North Muskogee corridor, but what was once a popular silver-screen venue has lain mostly fallow in recent years.

Now, thanks to the creative efforts of some local entrepreneurs, it may again draw crowds as a hub for musical performances.

Larry Clark, known by many locals for his fly-fishing expertise, decided he’d like to play a role in promoting the downtown area by reopening the Dream. He began working with the property management company that owns the Dream, and talked to other business owners.

“They told me to get it open and see what happens,” Clark said.

Enter Al Soto, another local businessman who’s always in search of inspiration for ways to market the downtown area. Soto was busy with Espresso 911, his drive-through coffee business on South Muskogee, when the opportunity to open a new shop surfaced. Drip, the Beverage Lab, is situated in the heart of the newly designated Northend Entertainment District.

“[I want] The Drip to be more than just a cool coffee shop,” said Soto. “Our goal is to make Tahlequah a destination town that draws unto itself people from all over.”

Soto’s latest brainchild will pair hot coffee with cool jazz.

“Coffee and jazz have always gone together,” Soto said. “We play a lot of jazz here [at The Drip].”

Some of his employees and customers are jazz students at Northeastern State University, and Soto wanted to give them a venue to play before classes ended for the summer. He looked into renting the Dream Theater to host an event and met up with Clark.

This weekend, The Dream will offer three showings of “Where the Red Fern Grows,” along with Soto’s jazz and coffee event.

Clark is excited about reopening the popular venue.

“Free movies will be shown, brought to you by Tahlequah Main Street,” said Clark.

Pat Moss has a CD release concert in May, and another film release is slated for June, Clark said.

“We want to make it available for different people in the community to rent it for concerts, independent movie premiers or whatever people want,” he said.

Rental is $250 for half a day, and all equipment is inclusive. Clark directs people to the webpage, dream-theatre.com

“It looks real nice inside,” Clark said.

He plans to show a movie every couple of weeks, but it’s still in the planning stage.

When the Dream Theater became available, Soto’s vision took a form. He believes a monthly music and entertainment night downtown would give people someplace to go and something to do.

For the Red Fern Festival, The Drip is hosting a jazz music show Saturday night, titled “Drip Jazz at the Dream.” Performers include NSU students Tucker Mastin, Austin Stunkard, Nick McKinney, Joe Barger and Hiroki Ohsawa. The Drip will cater with a mobile coffee bar.

“It’s seemed like the best opportunity to fill the building during the Red Fern Festival,” Soto said. “I hope this is a spring board for the fall.”

Dreamers like Soto often weave plans for the long-term.

“It takes time to build a following for a new business or event,” he said, “If I commit to something, I stick with it. My hope is, ‘If you build it, they will come.’ It’ll get people excited and involved and it will grow.”

It’s fun to be part of something fresh, Soto said.

Another version of his vision is “Main Street ‘Til Midnight,” in which one Friday night a month, live music, street performers, upscale food vendors and merchants would host an event in Norris Park, June through September.

“It would be more like a block party,” said Soto.

Soto moved his family to Tahlequah a few years ago to improve their quality of life, and they want to enhance the environment of their new hometown.

“This town has a lot of opportunity,” said Soto. “I see it as it’s in its beginning stages of becoming more forward-thinking, There are a lot of forward-thinking people in leadership positions. [They have] fresh ideas on how to run a business, and are people who aren’t afraid of technology.”

Nick Heidinger is the reason Drip is downtown – and Cashmere Lane, too, Soto said. Heidinger owns several parcels of property, including the Dream.

“He’s one of those forward-thinking people. It was his idea to reopen the Dream,” said Soto. “So I committed to one night a month to help the Dream, to help get the snowball rolling.”

It’s one thing to talk about being a City of Firsts; it’s another thing to put it into practice, Soto said.


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