Russian (CIS)Ukrainian (Ukraine)

Theaters of dreams. Overture to Theaters.


Theaters of dreams. Overture to Theaters.

A great home theater is much more than a place to watch movies or view concerts. It is much more than a collection of parts that immerse us in lifelike images and sounds. This is what Theo Kalomirakis provides. A step inside one his theaters produces an instant transport to another place or time – and all the drama that should accompany the viewing of a great movie.

Moreover, each theater is a unique personal statement, reflecting the values, ideals, and dreams of the people behind them. One theater recalls the grandeur of an era long gone and the infinite possibilities that existed, while another harks back to gentler times in turn-of-the-century England, and yet another revisits the refined glamour once called Hollywood.

A theater owner in Las Vegas chooses to travel back to the riches of an ancient culture, while a Georgia couple is transported to the Italian countryside, and a California family honors the Moorish style. A retired baseball star enjoys a timeless venue, while another former baseball star savors Miami Beach sunsets a continent away.

One theater houses great works of art, and another is, in effect, a work of modern art.

Moreover, these theaters represent quality time, such as the futuristic one enjoyed by an entire extended family. Another contemporary theater brings a far-flung family closer together. And the construction of still another theater inspired a couple to realize they had their own large and caring family working right in their home.

These theaters are time capsules, time machines, quality-time capsules and machines – and, ultimately, the canvases for their patrons to express their own wonderfully vivid dreams and ideals. And that is what makes them fantastic.

The Kiev

The Glory of Old Russia is Restored in Operatic Style

With a mere step into its theater lobby, guests at this Ukrainian dacha sense they are about to experience something special. Rich tones of ruby, marble, and sky greet the eyes. The ceiling rises beyond the entry arch with panels of gold leaf seemingly set against portals to a cloudless expanse. Bold burgundies swirl gracefully in the lobby's center dome, and chandeliers dangle in forms of wistful petals. Portraits of movie idols Jean Harlow and Greta Garbo beckon guests to an opening framed with columns that glimmer with gold.

In an instant, it is all left behind, for words alone cannot describe what comes next. The entry is to a palace, to another time of grand and graceful opulence, a celebration of man's accomplishments and civility, of his artisanship and creativity, of prosperity and promise and his ever pressing forward toward new and exciting possibilities.

Like any palace guest, one can't help but gaze skyward here – to the bounty of flora in the heavenly dome. A harvest of gold reigns in the ceiling medallions, the silk-draped panels, the concave coffered ceiling beyond, and the regal proscenium arch trimmed in backlit gilt.

There's no doubt about it:
you are about to enter a very special place –
one of elegance, grandeur,
and the promise of infinite possibilities.

Along the walls, Ionic columns stand sentinel to more arches and silk panels and judiciously placed medallions, all crowned with rows of dentils. In the center hangs the unifying touch of a bronze-and-crystal chandelier. At once its candlesticks flicker skyward and its glass drips reflections to the more earthbound, defining in its branches all the richness and grace of this space. Perhaps, it could be said, reflecting that will in us all to savor such beauty.

And like a palace, this space is the offspring of both stately power and whimsical imagination. "I wanted to create an allegory of wishful thinking, that all of this existed before”, says the theater's former owner, Dan Mysko, who renovated his entire dacha in the ever-optimistic and grand Belle Epoque style reminiscent of the palaces of St. Petersburg.

Local artisans assisted with the
designs of ceiling and wall details,
offering suggestions an how to best
depict local flora in the elaborate
swirls (right).

Mysko, a Ukrainian by birth but now a resident of Aspen, Colorado,  directed the extensive renovations while serving as an adviser to the Ukrainian president during the postSoviet 1990s. It was a new era, a forward-looking era of hope imbued with the promise of prosperity.

The drab-styled dacha had been a retreat for former Soviet leaders dating back to Joseph Stalin. In fact, a projection booth and 35mm projector, presumably for viewing propaganda films, were found in what is now the living room. Mysko had the space of the theater added, clad in concrete, and had plans, he says, to install a "plain old theater."

Intricacies delight throughout, from     
the fine lines of the hand-painted    
lobby dome (left) to the elegance of     
the chandelier, curtain fringes., and   
elaborate ceiling details.

Those plans changed with the available pool of affordable local labor. In all, a small economy of local artisans, from sculptors to painters, worked on the dacha and its theater, custom-crafting the moldings and capitals and other architectural details, painting the decorative flora on the ceilings and walls, applying the gold leaf, even offering design suggestions to achieve the proper representation or local flavor and style. The costs of building such a theater elsewhere would nave been prohibitive.

Several challenges confronted the designers in creating a theater in the space. For one, the rounded walls and dome created an echo that had to be treated acoustically. The solution was to create a sub-dome – a dome within a dome – a couple of feet beneath the concrete structure and to fill the void with materials to eliminate the echo. Some of the fabrics, such as the Indian silk used in the ceiling panels, could not be purchased locally, so they were bought in places such as New York and shipped overseas. Even the design for the decorative capitals on the lobby columns was inspired by those in New York's Shubert Theater. In all, the project took four years, because everyone involved, from the designers to the artisans, wanted it to be right. They knew they were working on something that was special.

Although he had occasional guests, Mysko wanted the theater mostly for himself. "At that time, there wasn't much to do here," he says. "And I am a fan of classic movies."

He also has a fine appreciation for classic movie theaters. "My favorite part of this theater is how very impressive it is when you walk into it, and the richness of it all," he says. "For me, personally, the theater is a fantasy. It is an escape, like the theaters of old were an elaborate escape for people."

Mysko's escape into fantasy involved some additional drama. The gold medallions in the ceiling conceal lights that illuminate the dome, and as the house lights dim the 20th Century-Fox theme plays to trumpet the start of the movie.

His most memorable moment in this theater palace, though, was viewing the timeless Casablanca on the 130-inch-wide screen. "It made me feel like I was watching it in an old movie theater," Myslco recalls. It seems almost fitting that such a theater would screen an enduring romance set in a foreign land, as world politics intermingle with enterprise and hope and the personal trials of both to evoke a lasting portrait of the human spirit. And a pretty good story as well.

Fantasy? Perhaps, like those grandiose palaces made to conjure feelings of Oz-like awe, but Fantasy resides only upon the surface of this palatial theater. It is all about possibilities and the wonderful accomplishments that can result.

Great Escapes, 2003

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