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Missouri History Museum Puts Spotlight on Muny Memories with "Behind-the-Scenes" Exhibit
Guests with low vision will be able to touch examples of set materials, like those used for the Scarecrow scene in The Wizard of Oz, or use a relief map of The Muny complete with braille to get an idea of the space.
This 6,000-square-foot exhibit will examine the history of The Muny through approximately 130 artifacts, including 10 costumes and 87 props from favorite Muny shows.
ST. LOUIS, MO, (PRNewswire-USNewswire), June 20, 2018 - Celebrating its centennial season this summer, the show has gone on at The Muny year after year. To commemorate this milestone, another Forest Park landmark is recreating 100 seasons of Muny magic. The Missouri History Museum is putting the spotlight on the oldest and largest continuously operating outdoor-theatre in the United States in Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage.
This 6,000-square-foot exhibit will examine the history of The Muny through approximately 130 artifacts, including 10 costumes and 87 props from favorite Muny shows. Muny memories come to life through interactive media, oral histories from Muny stars and staff, and opportunities to learn a dance step or two.
"Sharing the story of 100 seasons of Muny magic within the historical narrative of the St. Louis region presented quite a challenge," said Sharon Smith, curator of civic and personal identity for the Missouri History Museum and content lead for the exhibit. "This exhibit is as much about St. Louis as it is about musical theatre. There are stories about Forest Park, St. Louisans who made it big, and of course the personal stories of how generations of St. Louisans have grown up seeing at least one Muny performance."
Missouri History Museum staff worked closely with The Muny team in the development of the exhibit. Drawing from the collections of the Missouri Historical Society and The Muny archives, the exhibit shares how the theatre came to be, from the first performance in Forest Park in 1914 (a three-hour production called The Pageant and Masque, commemorating the 150th anniversary of the founding of St. Louis), to the 1916 production of As You Like It on the site that would become the Muny stage, to the theatre that St. Louisans enjoy today. A timeline complete with photographs, blueprints, and maps show The Muny's transformation over the years, and a breath-taking and colorful program wall will display every Muny program cover from the first 99 seasons.
Usually the final production is the only thing the audience sees, however, visitors to Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage are invited to "follow the yellow brick road" behind the set of the Scarecrow scene (as used in the 2016 Muny production of The Wizard of Oz) for a "behind-the-scenes" look at how that Muny magic is brought to life. From there, visitors will learn about everything from show selections and auditions to the big stars that have graced the Muny stage, including Cary Grant, Pearl Bailey, Mary Wickes, Betty White, Debbie Reynolds, Bob Hope, Jennifer Holliday, and more.
Muny Memories also gives visitors the rare opportunity to see some of the many props kept in the Muny storehouse including, the carriage from Cinderella (1995 and 2003), the lamppost from Singin' in the Rain (2005), the deathbed from The King and I (2012), the black umbrella from Mary Poppins (2013), the white wedding dress from Aida (2016), one of Ursula's tentacles from Disney's The Little Mermaid (2017), and Tevye's milk wagon with milk tins from Fiddler on the Roof (2016) which was repurposed as a newspaper cart in Newsies (2017).
The exhibit features a number of interactive elements including an area where visitors can put on their dancing shoes and join a rehearsal with Muny choreographer Michael Baxter to learn the finale from A Chorus Line. Other interactive features include a section that invites guests to cast their vote for their favorite Muny stars, a searchable database of all of the Muny show programs, and "photo ops" with musical characters such as Annie and Sandy from Annie and the Wicked Witch from The Wizard of Oz.
Muny Memories is designed to be enjoyed by visitors of all abilities. Guests with low vision will be able to touch examples of set materials, like those used for the Scarecrow scene in The Wizard of Oz, or use a relief map of The Muny complete with braille to get an idea of the space. Visitors can also learn about some of the ways The Muny makes shows accessible through an audio description of two scenes from the 2016 production of The Wizard of Oz described by Elaine Laws of Mind's Eye, the company which provides visual descriptions for each Muny show.
As part of programming for the exhibit, the public is invited to join the Missouri History Museum for Muny Tuesdays on select Tuesdays during the 2018 Muny season. Visitors to the Museum will enjoy refreshments, games, prizes, performances, and demonstrations before Muny performances.
"One hundred seasons is a lot to explore, even in a 6,000-square-foot exhibit. In addition to the artifacts, costumes, and props, visitors will learn about The Muny and the history of this region through hundreds and hundreds of photographs," said Smith. "Whether you've experienced the theatre from the front row or the free seats, or have never been to the Muny at all, this exhibit has something for you. I believe visitors to Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage will walk away from the exhibit with a real sense of why The Muny truly is 'Alone in Its Greatness."
Muny Memories: 100 Seasons Onstage is on display through June 2, 2019. Admission is free.
The Missouri History Museum (Jefferson Memorial Building) in Forest Park completed a major building expansion and renovation with the opening of the Emerson Center. The 92,000-square-foot Center, designed by Hellmuth, Obata & Kassabaum, provides the public with 24,000 square feet of additional
exhibition space in four galleries, the Lee Auditorium with 347 seats, Bixby's Restaurant overlooking Forest Park, four fully equipped classrooms and a resource center, and the expansive Louisiana Purchase gift shop.
Replica of Charles A. Lindbergh's plane, Spirit of St. Louis, hangs in MacDermott Grand Hall at the Missouri History Museum
The Missouri Historical Society was established in 1866 to rescue "from oblivion the early history of the city and the state." In 1913, it moved into the newly constructed Jefferson Memorial Building. The Memorial Building stands on the site of the main entrance to the Louisiana Purchase Exposition, more commonly known as the 1904 World's Fair. It was built with the proceeds of the Fair in memory of Thomas Jefferson.
Today, the Missouri History Museum houses a variety of exhibits and educational resources including the permanent exhibition, Seeking
St. Louis and the current Many Voices: Reflecting on American Indian Objects. The History Museum and Emerson Center are open daily from 10:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. (8:00 p.m. each Tuesday). Admission is free unless noted.
The Missouri History Museum Library and Research Center, located at 225 South Skinker in the former United Hebrew Synagogue, was renovated and opened in 1991. It houses a research library open to the public with a comprehensive collection focusing on the history of the St. Louis region, the state of Missouri and the American West. Hours are Tuesday through Saturday, 10:00 a.m. to 5 p.m. Admission is free. For more information, call 314-746-4599.
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