This coming Saturday morning, at an hour when I am usually clawing my way back into consciousness, I will commune with a crew of friends all committed to building a Theatre Museum of Boston here in what has been my hometown for most of the last thirty years. We will all bring our hopes and dreams and experiences and expertise together to rededicate ourselves, and begin to do real work. Once we're thoroughly organized, one of the first things we will do is begin telling everyone we meet about our dream.
I'm starting a little early.
Every time I have mentioned our plan, the reaction has been the same: a surprised drop of the chin, a smile of misty-eyed enthusiasm, and "Let me know how I can help!" Next year the Colonial Theatre will be a hundred years old, and the Majestic around the block and Ye Wilbur and the Shubert down the block will be planning their own centennials soon after. The Theatre Museum of Boston is an idea whose time has come.
If our original concept materializes, it will be housed somewhere within walking distance of the Boylston Street stop on the Green Line, because many historic theatrical sites are in that area, but also because a lot of people go to and from plays in that area every day, and we think a dialogue between live and historic theatre would be a good thing.
If I were choosing exhibits --- and every one of you will have different ideas --- I might ask Jon Platt to loan us the glass coffee-table that's now at his Colonial Theatre, on which "Oklahoma!" among many other great shows was re-written from a New Haven flop into a Broadway hit. I'd ask Bob Eagle who buys whole sets and costumes for them if he'd loan us one of the spectacular Follies-like costumes he still features in revivals of shows like "42nd Street" or "Hello, Dolly!"
And I'd ask to borrow some things that are hanging on the walls of the oldest continually-used theatre building in America --- the Footlight Club in Jamaica Plain --- as well as a loan of some of the things hanging in the Hasty Pudding Club's theatre in Harvard Square.
I'd ask some memorabilia from some actors like Ralph Waite, Blythe Danner, Paul Benedict, Stockard Channing, Larry Bryggman and Dustin Hoffman --- all of whom I saw performing here at The Theater Company of Boston. I might also ask David Wheeler to take a night out of his busy schedule over at the A.R.T. to come over and tell people what it was like to direct every one of those people at TCB. And if he would, then I'd also ask Michael Murray to come in from Waltham and tell us what it was like to work at the Charles Playhouse with people like Olympia Dukakis, Jill Clayburgh, Tony Van Bridge, Ellie Stone, and Andrea McArdle.
I don't have my programs from that golden age of Boston theatre, but perhaps you do. Perhaps you have a program for "Hair!" or "Equus" or "You're A Good Man Charlie Brown" or "Tiny Alice" or "Her First Roman" or "The Hollow Crown" or "The Subject Was Roses" you'd like to donate, or just loan us for a while, to remind people of shows they still remember seeing here in Boston's theater district --- or remember their parents talking about. They might impress a tourist or two, too.
But that's just MY idea of Boston theatrical history, which is entwined with the plays I saw, or perhaps even reviewed, while living here. Boston's theatrical heritage goes back at least as far as Gentleman Johnny Burgoyne acting in a play here while his British redcoats occupied the town in the Revolutionary War, or the upstairs performances that stock companies gave for so long in The Boston Museum --- for a long time the oldest theatre building in the city.
Susan Roberts the Committee Chair and President of Theatre Museum of Boston, Inc., actually rescued two bricks from what was Boston's oldest theatre building as it was recently demolished to make room for the Millennium 2000 Building. So now, as symbols of a continuity, we have those two bricks.
And we'll be asking You to provide the mortar.
And if you think you already have some mortar we could use, click into our website and Get Involved!