Al. Ringling Theatre

136 Fourth Avenue,
Baraboo, WI 53913

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Showing 1 - 25 of 41 comments

LouRugani on October 4, 2019 at 9:44 pm

Tom McEvilly, the new CEO at the Al. Ringling Theatre, wants to involve the Baraboo community with new programs and shows. “These theaters don’t exist anymore, they’re made into parking lots, they’re made into multiplexes or they’re like antique malls,” said McEvilly. “I’m really glad that this community was wise enough and dedicated enough and passionate enough to save it.” He plans to introduce youth theater classes including orientation and acting courses taught by theater professionals, and students will perform two shows a year. McEvilly says he plans to teach a couple of classes as well.

“You need to create that beginning base where they appreciate what we have, and they want to have the same passion to keep this place alive,” said McEvilly. “In our theater here, we have the high school and our parochial schools and our dance studios from the area that come and perform here. And when they come and have that opportunity here, they carry that love for this place throughout their entire lives.”

McEvilly looks forward to bringing many shows to the theater in the coming year, including live music performances, dance companies and comedic events that all generations can enjoy. Al. Ringling Theater Board President Aural Umhoefer said McEvilly’s theater experience will help secure the future of the historic playhouse. “He’s very experienced, so he’s very good to work with, he knows how to manage all aspects of a theater, which will benefit the Al. in the future.”

Throughout October, the theater will host a variety of live events, with Pink Droyd, a Pink Floyd cover band performing Saturday, and Charlie Berenes from Manitowoc Minute on Oct. 26. At the end of October and beginning of November, a theater guild that has performed in the theater for almost 60 years will be perform the musical “Pippin.” The theater also will host comedic acts such as VODville, a group of Hollywood actors to recreate original slapstick comedy similar to the Three Stooges and Charlie Chaplin. The theater also will present an original version of “Saturday Night Live” with local actors in the comedic sketches.

McEvilly said theater has directed theater productions in Madison, Chicago and Germany, and written three musicals. Until recently he was a theater and communications professor at the University of Wisconsin-Platteville Baraboo Sauk County. He also served as the youth theater director at Portage Center for the Arts from 2015 to 2017 and holds six degrees from UW-Madison, including a doctorate in education administration with a focus in fine arts administration and fundraising. He also worked as a teacher of theater with gifted and special needs students.

AlRingling on February 25, 2016 at 7:45 am

Trolleyguy on June 14, 2015 at 8:35 am

The theatre will close June 15, 2015 for restoration and reopen in February 2016.

LouRugani on December 3, 2012 at 7:44 pm

Just for accuracy’s sake, officially the theatre’s name has a period after the name ‘Al’.

paulnelson on May 21, 2012 at 9:59 am

Incredible detail here. Classic.

LouisRugani on April 13, 2011 at 4:56 pm

(January 16, 1953) Two Baraboo Theaters Sold to New Milwaukee Company

The Al Ringling theater, “America’s Prettiest Playhouse” since 1915, has been sold with its sister theater, the Juliar, to a new Milwaukee corporation, Baraboo Theaters, Inc., by Henry E. Ringllng.
Purchase price for the theaters was announced at more than $150,000. The Al Ringling theater, when it was completed in 1915, cost $100,000.
The corporation which bought the theaters also operates theaters in Richland Center, Boscobel, Elroy, and Black River Falls. It is headed by Jacob Eskin, president of the Eskin Theater Management Co., Milwaukee.
The Al Ringling theater was built by Albert Ringling, an owner of the Ringling Brothers circus. It seats 834, and at the time it was built was one of the largest and finest theaters in a city of its size in the country.
The Juliar, a much smaller theater, was completed in 1938 by Henry E. Ringling, in memory of Mrs. Selome Juliar Ringling, mother of the Ringling brothers.
The Al Ringling theatre originally was built for legitimate theatre, or as an “opera house.” It was converted to a movie theater later. It is still used for area theatrical performances.
Famous actors who have visited the theater during the time it was an opera house include Lionel Barrymore and Charlotte Greenwood.
Henry E. Ringling, Wisconsin Republican national committeeman, was in Washington for the inauguration Thursday and could not be reached for comment.

Patsy on July 16, 2008 at 11:42 am

If ever there was a theatre entrance, this is it with the famous name high above…..Al Ringling! A must-see, in person, someday!

Patsy on March 24, 2008 at 5:44 am

Lost Memory: Your “another angle” photo is spectacular! Thanks for sharing…again!

ERD on March 23, 2008 at 9:14 am

What a beautiful theatre! I am glad it is being maintained so well.

Patsy on December 11, 2007 at 9:36 am

Lost Memory: GREAT PHOTO!

Patsy on December 6, 2007 at 11:42 am

Lost Memory: What a wonderful evening photo of a wonderful theatre with a wonderful name…Ringling. BTW, the Ringling home and grounds in Sarasota FL are a must-see!

PaulWolter on August 19, 2007 at 7:50 pm

There is a gorgeous new full color souvenir book for the theatre available. Contact information for the theatre is at

PaulWolter on August 5, 2007 at 8:04 pm

Some papers concerning the Al. Ringling Theatre recently uncovered include a statement of cost from C.W. and Geo. L. Rapp to Al. Ringling. The theatre cost $100,422.79 including all of the extras (like the organ) and the architects' traveling expenses.

PaulWolter on April 14, 2007 at 5:03 pm

Dear “Lost Memory”

Are you related to the Rapps? Do you have a list of early Rapp and Rapp theatres? I would like to hear from you.

Thanks Paul Wolter

Patsy on November 6, 2006 at 5:28 am

Brian: Absolutely beautiful!

Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois
Ret. AKC (NAC) CCC Bob Jensen, Manteno, Illinois on November 4, 2006 at 4:44 pm

WurliTzer Theatre Pipe Organ, Opus 29, a 2 manual/6 rank, was shipped to the Fremont Theatre in Oakland, California on December 31, 1913. It was reposessed by the WurliTizer company, rebuilt as Opus 70 and shipped to the Al. Ringling Theatre around 1915.
In about 1928 the Ringling Theatre bought a 3 manual/9 rank, Mighty Golden-voiced Barton Organ. This made sense because Dan Barton had toured in 1909, with the Ringling Brothers Circus. In fact, the organ console style used in this theatre, and many other installations, is referred to as the “circus wagon,” because of its lavish use of carvings and the red and gold coloring. Another good reason was that Barton’s were made in Oshkosh, Wisconsin only 70 miles away and WurliTizer’s were made in North Tonawanda, New York about 550 miles away.
By the late 1960’s the Barton had gradually fallen into desrepair so that it was barely usable. In the early 1970’s, a group of dedicated volunteers began restoring the instrument to its original glory. They emptied dust from the pipes, patched and replaced the miles and miles of wiring, and cleaned off the grime from 30 years of coal heat. The Barton is now in excellent playing condition.
The WurliTizer, minus the percussion and sound effects went to a church in Baraboo where it was used until around 1970. I don’t know what happened to the WurliTizer after that.

tmsenzig on October 12, 2006 at 6:44 pm

I live about 20 miles from Baraboo, and I visit the Ringling fairly often. The bulk of its programming today is first-run movies, and they also do stage shows and musical presentations as well. On occasion, they also do free screenings of older films, with a collection being taken up for local food pantries & charities. Early in November, the Baraboo Theatre Guild will be performing Lerner & Loewe’s CAMELOT on the Ringling stage; I have my ticket already and it will be GREAT!

There is a 3/9 Barton organ that was installed here in 1928. The organ was completely repaired and restored in the 1970s and remains in great playing condition. The organ is not used very much today, other than for a demonstration during daily theatre tours. A couple of years ago (4/1/04) the theatre did a presentation of some Charlie Chaplin silents with Dennis James accompanying at the organ. I can confidently say that was the most magical movie experience I have ever had.

Although I have been to the Ringling MANY times, every time I enter the auditorium today (usually at Aisle 1), I continue to be held in awe of the place, as though I were seeing it for the first time. It’s that powerful. Although visibly in need of an interior restoration (exterior work was completed a few years ago), that does not distract from the spectacle that is the Al Ringling Theatre. The theatre has remained in constant use since opening night in November 1915, and the place has not been significantly altered since. The only changes that come to mind over the years are modern motion picture and sound/lighting equipment, the marquee (installed decades ago, but is not original to the theatre), and the installation in 1928 of the present Barton organ, which replaced the original 1915 Wurlitzer. Even the popcorn machine in the Lobby concession stand is 1940s vintage and still in use—and they still use real butter on their popcorn!

Anyone planning a vacation to the Wisconsin Dells area MUST make a stop at the Ringling a part of their itinerary.

Patsy on August 11, 2006 at 4:09 pm

ken mc: Wonderful photos of a beautifully built theatre with the Ringling name. I’ve tour the Ringling home in Sarasota FL and it is quite the estate on Tampa Bay.

PaulWolter on January 8, 2006 at 4:00 am

The Juliar Theatre was built about 1938 by Henry Ringling, Al. Ringling’s nephew, and the owner of the Al. Ringling Theatre at that time. The name comes from the maiden name of the Ringling Brothers mother, Salome Juliar Ringling. As a trivia note, their were two other Juliar sisters, one whom married a Gollmar and had several boys (whom also went on to create a circus) and one whom married a Moeller and had two boys which made circus wagons with their father. The Juliar Theatre was a sparsely decorated Art Deco box which provided programming alternatives to the Al. Ringling Theatre. The Juliar Theatre was heavily used when only a few years after it opened the massive Badger Ordnance Works opened just south of Baraboo eventually employing 13,000 people. I’m not sure when the theatre went out of use but as long as I can remember (back to the 70’s) it was never open, but the name always remained on the ouside of the building. (the sign is now owned by Juliar family members) It was indeed demolished to make way for the West Square Building in 1994. I can provide a picture if someone wants to include a listing here on Cinema Treasures. Just contact me.

Thanks, Paul Wolter

JimRankin on January 7, 2006 at 1:07 pm

I have nothing to add to the kind entries by the other ‘authorities’ here. Of course, one could message the Ringling management directly through their web site, and no doubt they would quickly tell you what you need to know. I live over 100 miles away, so have no direct knowledge.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 7, 2006 at 10:12 am

Bryan: you are the man. That’s the building I saw. I also recall that it was on Broadway. My gut says that it was closed at the time, carried “1 & 2” on the marquee and had a different name.

Life's Too Short
Life's Too Short on January 7, 2006 at 5:25 am

I was in Baraboo back in the 80’s. There was a second vintage movie theatre building near the Ringling. It didn’t look nearly as ornamental. This is the web site’s only Baraboo entry. Maybe the great Wisconsin authority Jim Rankin has some idea of what this place was?