Wednesday, 26 June 2019 14:44

Backstage Heroes: Lakeshore Museum Center is shining the spotlight offstage

Written by  Kayla Sosa
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An interactive exhibit at the Lakeshore Museum Center in Muskegon is highlighting all the parts of a theater that make a production happen, especially the “backstage” roles like lighting, costuming and set design.

“The exhibit is not only celebrating the Muskegon Civic Theatre’s 35th anniversary, but also — instead of going over the shows they did or the history — it’s looking at all the different parts and volunteers that it takes to put on a show,” said Jackie Huss, program manager at the Lakeshore Museum Center.

The Show Must Go On: Celebrating 35 Years of Muskegon Civic Theatre is interactive, so viewers are able to play with different types of lighting on a lightboard, mess with sounds, use a working stage and more. There are also parts of the exhibit where visitors can read into the history or look at theater artifacts.

Mat Moore, preservationist manager at the museum, said this exhibit is important because these roles aren’t often highlighted.

“It’s part of the theater work that people forget,” Moore said. “They see all the people that are doing all the hard work onstage and forget that for every person that’s up onstage, there are two or three people behind them working just as hard to get the whole production on.”

These roles include but are not limited to lighting, sound, props, costumes, set design, stage crew and directors. The museum staff worked with the Muskegon Civic Theatre staff to make sure every representation was accurate.

“I wanted it to be something that celebrated everyone that was involved with the theater,” said Jeff Bessinger, exhibit collections director and archivist at the museum.

As visitors walk around the exhibit, they can see a wall from the “scene shop,” where props, sets and costumes are made, designed and stored. Information is provided about who built the sets and what their job is. Moving further through the exhibit, visitors can learn about costume designing and makeup artists, as well as sound and lighting designers.

“People I walked through the exhibit with, who were from the theater, said they felt really familiar there,” Moore said. “A lot of times they go to an exhibit and they’re seeing artifacts, but this one, we tried to recreate the feel of the scene shop and the feel of the theater.”
In addition to the exhibit, the museum is hosting Backstage Theater Workshops for Kids, bringing professionals in to talk about and teach their craft.

On July 9, a makeup artist will show kids how to make animals, bruises and other face designs.

On Aug. 20, kids can learn all about theater tech — light, sound and 3-D printing.

Huss said it’s important for kids and everyone to be exposed to the community of people that actually keep theaters running.

“It takes thousands and thousands of hours of volunteer work to put on their season, and a lot of people don’t realize how many people aren’t onstage but are actually behind the scenes, making sure everything’s running smoothly, or getting things set months — or even a year — in advance,” Huss said.

The interactive part of the exhibit takes the experience for the viewer one step further from just still pictures on the wall, adding in historic information.

“(The goal is) to really dive into all the different jobs that it takes and the lives that it touches, because it’s really a passion for all the people involved in the theater,” Huss said. “To be able to celebrate them has been great.”

Moore said the theater community, specifically Muskegon Civic Theatre, has been more than supportive of the museum’s exhibit.

“I was blown away by the support that they gave us,” Moore said. “Anything we needed help with, any suggestions, the doors were open to us; they were willing to help out.”

The Show Must Go On: Celebrating 35 Years of Muskegon Civic Theatre
Lakeshore Museum Center
430 W. Clay Ave., Muskegon
Through Nov. 2

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