Resilient is an effective phrase to explain the Missouri Theatre.
The practically century-old landmark has weathered a variety of profound historic transitions: silent movie to sound, movie to digital, the Nice Melancholy within the Nineteen Thirties and the COVID-19 pandemic throughout a yr of strict limitations.
After a hiatus when the ornate theater hosted solely MU lectures with rows of seats taped off, its gilded house can be used as soon as once more for its meant function — dwell performances.
The next event can be a cease on humorist Leanne Morgan’s tour Sept. 11, adopted by a live performance by Canadian singer-songwriter Gordon Lightfoot on Sept. 24 and a efficiency by comic Ron White on Oct. 22.
Though it will likely be nearly one other yr earlier than it turns into a main venue for the True/False Movie Fest, this fall’s reopening will as soon as once more enable the general public to benefit from the palatial decor behind the theater’s unprepossessing brick exterior.
“It’s a gem of a constructing as a result of from the surface, you don’t have any thought, you realize, the majestic stunning theater that’s on the within,” mentioned Trent Rash, government director of the Missouri Symphony, which performs within the theater.
“It’s actually, really a really magical expertise to carry out within the Missouri Theater.”
A distinguishing characteristic is a small exterior door with a plaque that marks the doorway Columbia’s Black residents had been required to make use of in the course of the Jim Crow period. It signifies simply how lengthy the theater has been part of the Columbia’s cityscape.
Now listed on the Nationwide Register of Historic Locations, the Missouri Theatre opened Oct. 5, 1928, after 10 months of development. It’s central Missouri’s solely remaining pre-Melancholy period film palace and vaudeville stage, in line with the MU archives.
On the day it opened, it was crammed to the brim with an viewers of distinguished visitors. It was such a momentous event that famed silent movie actor Charlie Chaplin despatched his congratulations by way of telegram from his residence in Los Angeles.
The house initially served as a silent film home, despite the fact that the expertise for recorded sound was being added to movie within the late ‘20s. It additionally turned a outstanding vaudeville corridor.
The enjoyable and frivolity, nevertheless, started to fade within the fall of 1929, a yr after the theater opened. Black Tuesday plunged the world into the Nice Melancholy, which lasted a decade.
COVID-19 threw one other curve ball in its path final yr, however the theater has once more persevered.
“It has been a really unhappy interval, as a result of I don’t suppose as people, we’re inclined to undergo life alone,” mentioned Robert Wells, supervisor of the College Live performance Collection.
“It is extremely unhappy to not expertise the kind of issues that now we have right here [the Missouri Theater] for such an extended time period. Whether or not or not it’s music or drama, the dwell occasion expertise offers a lot emotion to our lives, in a technique or one other.”
The Baroque-style constructing has a variety of elaborate options, many unique. The chandelier, for instance, weighs 1,800 kilos and holds 200 gentle bulbs.
Designed by Boller Brothers Architects of Kansas Metropolis, the theater was impressed by the Paris Opera Home. Along with the chandelier, unique options embrace the Belgian marble wainscoting, plaster reliefs and stained glass artwork panels.
The organ used to create sound results for silent movies is claimed to have sufficient wire inside it to wrap across the globe. These connect with quite a lot of drums, bells and whistles.
Farther backstage, an intricate equipment of pulleys, wires and doorways — some even floating within the air — are used to boost the theater’s artifice and the general public’s surprise.
“It’s a gathering place. It’s a assembly place, it’s an organizing place, it’s a place for each emotion, whether or not or not it’s anger and protest, to like,” Wells mentioned, noting that the theater is a crucial a part of group historical past.
The theater holds many private histories as properly. It has provided a stage for “a few of the most vital moments of each particular person’s life, whether or not or not it’s a dance recital, or a child’s efficiency or a highschool or faculty commencement,” Wells mentioned.
“We do weddings, we’ve accomplished funerals, we’ve accomplished momentous events and we’ve had political rallies. It’s a place of emotion.”
Because the Missouri Theater makes yet one more comeback, Joplin-born poet Langston Hughes’ 1957 poem “Nonetheless Right here” may function an epigram:
“I been scarred and battered.
My hopes the wind accomplished scattered.
Snow has friz me, solar has baked me,
Appears like between ‘em they accomplished tried to make me
Cease laughin’, cease lovin’, cease livin’–