The Historical Missouri Theater: Bringing the Arts to St. Joseph

September 20, 2013 6:00 am

On June 25, 1927, the Missouri Theater opened its door to the arts in St. Joseph. Missouri Theater 1With their 25-cent ticket in hand, guests streamed into the ornate seating area to see the silent film, “Rough House Rosie.” Art Deco and Moorish detailing surrounded them like a palace. The Missouri Theater is a piece of art. Art covers the stage in elaborate set design, colorfully made-up faces, and an array of costumes.

Only recently has the Missouri Theater blossomed into such a huge venue for the arts. For over 40 years it was a movie house. In 1978, the city of St. Joseph purchased the theater and transformed it into a performing arts center. One year later its beauty and history earned it a designation on the National Register of Historic Places.

By 2002, the 75-year-old theater was in need of repair. A $1.9 million renovation freshened up the floors, walls, dressing rooms, restrooms, lighting, and sound system. A fire on February 19, 2011, threatened to undo all the beautiful restoration, but the Missouri Theater surprised its patrons with its dedication to the arts. Theater members decided that the show must go on and within a few months of the fire they kept their spring schedule without missing one show.

While the Missouri Theater opened as a movie house, today it brings the arts to St. Joseph in music, theater, dancing, and a variety of other stage performances.  Four main organizations bring the arts into the Missouri Theater: Saint Joseph Symphony, Robidoux Resident Theatre, Performing Arts Association, and Creative Arts Production.

Throughout the year, the plush Missouri Theater seat cushions take a wearing. The professional St. Joseph Symphony adds beauty and elegance in their annual performances. For the 2013-14 concert year they will offer classical performances, a brass band performance, and a holiday pops concert. Listening to the symphonic notes, surrounded by the gorgeously ornate theater can transport guests far away from life just outside the theater doors.

The Robidoux Resident Theatre (RRT) brings stage art and musicals to the Missouri Theater.  Local actors show their immense talent in shows like Les Miserables, Hairspray, A Christmas Story, and the Diary of Anne Frank. The Missouri Theater brings the local acting community together and offers opportunities to be a part of the arts. Many men and women perform year after year for their family, friends, and fellow residents of St. Joseph.

While the RRT allows residents to be the stars, the Performing Arts Association (PAA) brings in stars from across the country. From magicians, to singers, to acrobats, the PAA brings art in multiple forms. Performances like Ricky Nelson Remembered, Cirque Zuma Zuma, and the International Superstars of Magic and Comedy are some of the offerings for 2013-14.

The Creative Arts Productions (CAP) is another community group that welcomes in the youngest of our artists. CAP recruits only youth to perform musical theater for the community and to help with other tasks like set design. For many children, this is their first chance to try stage performance. No try-outs mean that beginners are completely welcomed into the arts arena with no pressure.

The Missouri Theater is a gathering place for all artists and for those who appreciate art. As it nears a century in existence it spreads its passion for the arts out to the community more than ever.

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