Muny updates its stage to ‘make the magic’

FOREST PARK – The Muny might feel a bit different when it opens for its 2019 season in June. That’s because the stage is getting an update for the first time in its 100-year history.

Work on a new stage began immediately after the close of the Muny’s 2018 season as a part of the Second Century Campaign, which aims to improve the Muny experience for the actors, musicians and technicians who make the magic possible.

Director of Operations Sean Smith described the renovation as “recreating what we had before but with better infrastructure.”

He said that previously the Muny had focused on improving and renovating the audience experience but that now it was time for a backstage update.

Improvements of this scale required tearing down the original stage and building it back up with new features, including the addition of five lifts, two of which are trap door lifts. Smith said those will be especially helpful in situations like the melting of the Wicked Witch in “The Wizard of Oz,” which the Muny last did in 2016.

Upgrades also include a revamping of the orchestra space, which will have new bathrooms and other amenities. Now, instead of walking out onto the stage, the conductor will be lifted on. Updates are also being made to the light bridge and the sound, electric and props rooms. 

Further backstage updates will continue for the next four to five years.

Director of Advancement Courtney Simms said, “When we launched this campaign three years back, we knew that it would take a lot of money to do this.” That number came out to be $100 million, though, Simms said, only about half of that goes to this year’s updates. The rest benefits the Muny’s endowment.

When asked about how these updates will help the Muny going forward, Simms reiterated that the Muny has put a lot of focus in the past on patron amenities but that now the goal is “enhancing the experience on the other side of the stage,” meaning, of course, all the people who work to bring the shows to life.

Updating the backstage is a big part of keeping those people coming back, she said.

“We will be able to attract really big stars. And when I say stars, I don’t just mean the stars you see onstage, but I mean the directors and choreographers,” she said. “All of those people who would love to work at the Muny and now see all these things that we’re doing. I mean, just imagine a set designer thinking, ‘My god, I gotta work at that theater,’ because you know they’ve done such incredible work and they’re doing such incredible things to take care of the people that make the shows.”

She said that above all, these updates are intended to “help them make the magic.”

The Muny season opens with “Guys and Dolls” on June 10th and runs through August. For tickets or more information, head over to https://muny.org/.

Samantha Auch

Author: Samantha Auch

Sam Auch graduated from Knox College, where she studied Theater and Gender Studies. Outside her work with The Northsider, she works as an actor, playwright, and artist. You can found out more about her at her website thisisauchward.com

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