Nestled in the Old Threshers grounds, too far north to be the Log Village and too far south to be the North Village, sits the Theatre Museum. Or, professionally, The Theatre Museum of Repertoire Americana. To some, this is a frequent must-see attraction. Others may not be aware of its existence or the important history that lies inside.
In the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, most communities, regardless of size, had an opera house for public events and entertainment, including performances by professional artists. During the summer months, many theatrical companies played under canvas because of the summer heat.
Of course, to enjoy a great show, you had to feel like you were really there. Backdrops created a sense of reality and transported you out of your seat, and into the world of the play. The museum has an extensive collection of theatrical backdrops painted in the late 1800s and early 1900s, one of the largest such collections in existence in one place.
While most enjoy streaming services today, television, and phones, entertainment looked a lot different in the 18 and 1900s. Traveling shows would come to town and folks from all over would flock to the theatre.
I was joined by board president Dr. Monie Hays, and Grace Davis, vice president. According to them, the term “theatre” had a negative reputation during the 19th and 20th centuries, and instead, “opera” was preferred. They work and volunteer many hours a week to sort through the archives and preserve what used to be a part of everyday life. Posters were placed throughout towns much like Mount Pleasant, and a traveling show would bring many people together for hours of entertainment.
Currently, the museum hosts Dr. Wendy Waszut-Barret (PhD Technical Theater), who specializes in restoration, replication, and replacing. With an eye for theatrical backdrops, she can narrow a certain painting down to the play it was used in, or what year it would have been used.
Hidden history will be uncovered at 3:00pm on Thursday, January 11th with a special program taking place at the Theatre Museum. The museum holds memories of a time long gone, yet some are determined to keep that history alive.
*Waszut-Barrett is an expert in both the provenance and preservation of such artifacts. To read more, visit Drypigment.net: https://drypigment.net/.
**For more information about the Theatre Museum or about the January program, including to volunteer or to arrange an interview with Dr. Waszut-Barrett, contact Dr. Monie Hayes at email@example.com, or the Theatre Museum at firstname.lastname@example.org / 319-385-9432. The museum is located at 405 E. Thresher Rd., Mt. Pleasant, Iowa.
***The Theatre Museum of Repertoire Americana is in need of volunteers for the remaining days that their guest is there. They will be open 9-5 on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday. Please call 319 385 9432 for more information or to volunteer.