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Our Namesake
The Goddess Isis

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  The Goddess Isis

The Theatre is filled with history, mysteries and whispers of decades past, but it’s intrigue and magic come from the ruins of Ancient Egypt. The Myth Osiris married Isis and, as the first born, assumed rule as Lord of the Earth, with Isis
as his queen and consort. Osiris was killed by a wooden sarcophagus secretly made to his measurements by Set, his brother who was jealous of Osiris’ position as Pharaoh, who plotted to kill him and take his place. A party
was to be held where the coffin was offered to whoever could fit inside. A few people tried to fit
in - to no avail. Osiris was encouraged to try, but as soon as he lay back, the lid slammed on him
and was locked. It was then sealed with lead and thrown into the Nile River. Upon hearing that Osiris was gone, Isis set
out to look for him. She later learned that the coffin had floated down the Nile river up to the
coast of Byblos; Isis found that it embedded in the trunk of a cedar tree. When traveling back,
along the Nile River, she left the coffin in an area of marshland. While hunting, Set found Osiris’
coffin and dismembered him into 14 parts, scattering them across the land of Egypt.
Once again Isis set out to look for the pieces and she was able to find 13 of the 14 parts,
with the help of Nephthys, Set’s wife. Isis then grew wings and hovered over Osiris. She
breathed life into him in order to revive him and conceive Horus, their son. Being simultaneously
alive and dead, Osiris became the god and king of the afterlife. The Isis-Osiris Myth became very important
during the Greco-Roman period with sanctuaries at Delos and Pompeii. It was
believed that the Nile River flooded every year because of the tears of sorrow which
Isis wept for Osiris. Osiris’ death and rebirth was relived each year through rituals.


1887 BCE Theatre
Egypt 1887 BCE, a time of ritualistic dancing, storytelling, Osirian deity worship and the first
recorded production of theatre. Most people assume that it was the Greeks who invented the theatre arts. Actually, the first recorded production of theatre was the Egyptian Passion Play dedicated to the mythical divine Pharaoh Osiris and his goddess Queen Isis. Since the Osirian story contributed to the creation of the Afterlife and Underworld,
these plays were meant to honor the gods as a form of religious ritual worship. The plays depicted the triumphs and struggles of Osiris and Isis. Especially the role of Isis, magical healer and resurrectionist. These plays were so realistic that often, the actors would die from the severity of their wounds. For centuries, these passion plays were performed annually in Egypt. In the early 1900’s there was a renewed fascination with ancient Greek and Egyptian
mythology. The Isis Theatre was named after the goddess Isis’ myth that started a theatrical
movement.

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The Historic Isis Theatre
Through the Ages


1914 Open. The first equipment was silent, with a hand-cranked projector. In an interview, John H. Sparks, the first projectionist, recalled the memorable first night the theater was open on May 21, 1914:


“When the storm scene went on the screen, it was raining cats and dogs outside...
Lightning flashed. Thunderclaps shook the theater... We had the best kind of sound
for the storm on the screen – by nature itself. The effect was unforgettable.”


“I thought I’d fool around with the theater for a few months just for fun...”
-L.C. Tidball
Owner and operator
from 1918 to 1970


1935 The Fire. After 21 thriving years, the theatre caught fire due to flammable projectors--which were commonly used in that time period. Shortly after the fire, reconstruction began. For the next 81 years, the theatre would be called the New
 

1936 Grand "re"-Opening. The New Isis opened with the movie “In Person” starring Fort Worth’s own Ginger Rogers. She was unable to be at the grand opening but participated via telephone. Next came two Clark Gable movies, “Mutiny on the
Bounty” and “Call of the Wild.”


1950 Main Attraction. North-side or Diamond Hill-area teenagers would ride the city bus to the Stockyards. Some parents would drop their kids at the 25-cent double features and go to shops nearby.


1970 Sold. Longtime owners, the Tidball family, sold the theatre to the Griffith family, founders of the local Griff’s Burger.
 

“We catered to the children and families on the north side, and to the working men in the Stockyards.
There were a lot of real characters down there along Exchange Avenue, nice people. Then the characters
started driftng away, and so did the movie business.”
-Harold Griffith
Owner and operator
from 1970 to 1988


1988 Closed. As the north side declined from its 1950s business & shopping heyday to a seedy 1970s bar district, the theatre suffered. Sadly, The New Isis Theatre has been abandoned since its close in 1988. 

 

2016 Downtown Cowtown at the Isis Theatre begins. Jeffrey Smith & Debbie Garrett-Smith decided it was time to fulfill their dream of restoring The New Isis to her former glory. The Theatre, now known as Downtown Cowtown at the Isis Theatre, will be home to live entertainment, western classic films and a speak-easy bar that will take you back in time.
Cited: Fort Worth Star Telegram article by Bud Kennedy