Thursday, August 7, 2014

Beyond the Stage: Masterpiece Theatre

Tonight at 6:00PM the Orpheum Theatre kicks off its inaugural Backstage Bash!  This event includes local eats, live music, and a chance to experience the "star's view" of the Orpheum theatre through exclusive backstage access.  In many theatres backstage might not seem very exciting.  If you've seen one you've seen 'em all, right?  Not quite.  The Orpheum has a little secret that our Backstage Bash-ers are going to see it first-hand: our backstage murals.

Our halls are absolutely covered in original artwork.  These masterpieces are painted and autographed by all of the Touring Broadway casts that make a stop in Memphis, Tennessee.  These murals date back to the mid-1990s, but the tradition itself dates way, way, way back... to the 80s.

After the Orpheum was renovated in 1983, the theatre became home to the local opera in addition to touring productions.  Members of the Orpheum's crew allowed starring sopranos to autograph the walls, which was eventually (and lovingly) termed the "diva door."  Many other notable stars, like Cary Grant, followed suit, and soon the tradition grew into a wonderful and colorful array of murals.

Then in 1996, the Orpheum underwent a massive renovation and stage expansion in order to accommodate blockbuster Broadway shows like The Phantom of the Opera and Miss Saigon.  Of course architects had to demolish the walls in order to add depth to the stage, putting the murals in jeopardy.  Every process imaginable was considered in hopes of maintaining the priceless collection of paintings and autographs, but in the end the combination of concrete blocks and mortar made for a weak canvas.  Tragically, there was no way to keep the murals together, and they were lost.

But as we say in theatre, "The show must go on."  And on it did!  For nearly 20 years we have carried on the tradition of allowing each and every cast to leave their mark on our walls.  Our collection has since surpassed the one we were unable to save.  In fact, the halls are so full that our technical director is having to get creative with space, letting casts paint on the stage doors and in the stairwells.

So if you get the chance, stop by the Backstage Bash this evening and see our incredible collection of Broadway masterpieces along with great food, great music, and great company.  Tickets are still available here, or you can buy at the door.  See you backstage!

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