#MuniFamily

Hi all! Lindsey here, your Muni Moment lead blogger. It’s the most wonderful time of the year! Hallmark has started their Countdown to Christmas, Black Friday ads are starting to come out, but best of all the 2020 Muni season has been announced! Last year Muni’s season theme was #WhatsYourWish, taking you on journeys filled with magic, determination, love, and dreams. This year’s theme centers around family, reminding you that family is wherever you feel at home. For me, there was no one better to kick of this season of Blogging Under the Stars, than my own family, and exiting Muni president, Mr. Jim Leach:

#MuniFamily

The four shows that make up the 2020 Springfield Muni Opera season have one thing in common, and that’s why our theme for this year is #MuniFamily. Families are all very different: some are creepy, kooky, and altogether ooky (The Addams Family); some are swept up in the fast-moving events of history (Ragtime); some are filled with question marks and uncertainty (Mamma Mia!); and some are more difficult to deal with than others (Matilda).

But whatever your family’s shape and size, there is a place for you at the Muni. It’s obviously a wonderful place for families to spend time together on a summer night, enjoying a picnic meal or one of the delicious treats from our concession stand before taking in an entertaining and dazzling show. But for those who bring our productions to life, Muni is a family, too.

I learned this quickly the first time I tried out for a show, back in 2003. I had never done theater of any kind before, and I was nervous about auditioning. What I found was a lot of people who were welcoming, encouraging, and supportive. And after I was cast, I found countless new friends, brought together by our love of performing and our joy in sharing our talents with the audience.

My first year at Muni was also my daughter’s first year, as we were both cast in “The Wizard of Oz.” I learned quickly that Muni is a family affair in more ways than one. Lots of families spend quality time together on-stage in Muni productions. Or perhaps a child is in the show, while mom and dad help out backstage or at the front of the house. And sometimes while a parent is in the spotlight, a child or other family member is taking on other duties to bring the Muni magic to life.

A few years later, my son was also performing in Muni shows, as was the young man who would eventually become my son-in-law (and maybe someday, my grandchildren will be up there, too? I wouldn’t bet against it….). And while most of the family was clambering to get on stage, my wife Lisa – who suffered from one of the worst cases of stage fright on record — also found a family at Muni. Her volunteer work eventually earned her an invitation to serve on the Muni board and to become chair of the concessions committee. She also made lifelong friends and was thrilled to be a part of the Muni family. She passed away unexpectedly in 2015, but is now memorialized on the Muni site, along with many other members of our extended Muni family whose contributions will never be forgotten.

Later, I was honored beyond description to follow in her footsteps and join the Muni board; I recently completed my term as board president. With the constant support of our talented board members, I had the privilege of playing a role in helping our Muni family thrive, and grow, and bring enjoyment to families just like yours. That sense of family is probably the most important legacy of the Muni. And just like in this season’s shows, those families are all different – sometimes quite unconventional. But on our stage, on our staffs and crews, and in our audience, families find a place that is always welcoming, always happy to see you, and ready to go the extra mile to make sure you have a great time when you come to visit.

We hope you will enjoy our 2020 season! We are so glad to have you and your family as part of our #MuniFamily. Throughout the season we will be looking for guest contributors to share what #MuniFamily means to them. Memories are sure to be made this season.

See you under the stars,

Jim Leach 

Thoughts on Oz

Hello all! My name is Jim Dahlquist, and for the last eight or so weeks I have had the pleasure of playing Scarecrow in The Wizard of Oz. Oh, by the way, THANK YOU for voting for me overwhelmingly in the Facebook poll.

Poor Tin Man… he really isn’t THAT bad of a guy…

We’ve been practicing all summer for the last Muni show of the season The Wizard of Oz (WOZ). Our directors have done a wonderful job paying tribute to the classic movie along with adding a few surprises of their own!

WOZ is such a great story of friendship, adventure, bravery and perseverance. And tell your little ones that our flying monkeys are played by children so there’s nothing to fear. Well, except of course for the Wicked Witch. But even she is SO nice in real life that children will want her autograph afterwards along with Dorothy’s and the whole WOZ cast. Let’s also not forget Toto! There’s nothing quite like an adorable dog on stage to put everyone in a good mood. He already knows all his lines and only peed once on stage…oh wait, that was me. 🙂

You don’t have to worry about storms, either. Any inclement weather will simply become part of the special effects in the twister scene.

So as we head toward opening night, here are a few thoughts and questions to ponder:

How many set pieces are actually used in this production?

How many gallons of paint did it take to cover them?

Will the cast be able to complete our strike before dawn on August 12th?

How many seconds does it take our munchkins and flying monkeys to devour an industrial-size container of gold fish crackers?

Which member of our children’s cast will be your favorite? (Nearly impossible to pick just one!)

Our Toto’s real name is Arlen.  How is that name associated with the Wizard of Oz?

I’m quite confident audiences of all ages will leave with smiles on their faces and humming the familiar Wizard of Oz tunes. You’ll definitely want to grab some popcorn or a Muni Dog, a large fountain drink, and then join us as we head down the Yellow Brick Road.

We’ll see you over the rainbow. 

Mrs. Meers’ Monday Morning Muni Moment

WOW! I’M WRITING A BLOG FOR THE MUNI! 6 years ago, I remember bawling my eyes out watching The Muni’s Les Miserables and being star-struck by all these famous people and now here I am publishing content for them!? I sort of feel like a dog must feel when they get a treat: I have no idea what’s going on but you KNOW I’m gonna scarf down that dog biscuit…er rather, type up a quality content blogget! (I DON’T CARE IF THAT’S NOT EVEN A WORD – IT’S A WORD NOW AND IT DESCRIBES EXACTLY AS I FEEL!)

It’s the week of the show and, WE CANNOT WAIT! If you love tap-dancing: this is the show for you. If you love a good romance story: this is the show for you. If you love a creepy man dressing up in drag and kidnapping women: this is the show for you. If you love Eva Peron and this your first time ever hearing about the Muni: well, I have bad news for you BUT STILL THIS IS THE SHOW FOR YOU. Because quite literally everyone should enjoy this show. Unless you hate shows that don’t make you sad, then you might want to check out Spring Awakening this fall coming to the STC stage directed by yours truly (THAT’S RIGHT A SHAMELESS PLUG!)

BUT I DIGRESS. I have seen Thoroughly Modern Millie two times in my life and I absolutely fell in love with the show. It’s funny. It’s cute. The music is catchy. The dancing is impressive. And it’s not just some sappy love story with no plot! 

Basically, Millie shows up to New York and is like: “I want to be an actress.” Or something like that. IDK. I’m still trying to channel my inner-femaleat that point. But New York kind of tears her apart. Then this dude crashes into her, they have a spat. He mocks her. But she’s like: “Whatever dude. I’m gonna marry rich. Problem solved.” And she begins her quest to marry rich. Problem is while all that’s going down, this other dude dresses up like a lady and kidnaps orphans (kind of like Daddy Warbucks except for the whole dressing up as a lady thing. IDK. I’ve never seen Annie). Meanwhile Millie tries whatever it takes to get her boss to fall in love with her- including making him sing like ridiculously fast. (Think Guns and Ships from Hamilton and then knock it up about 1000 BPM). Then while you’re all distracted with the fancy dancing and singing, Peyton Knowski swoops in and steals your heart. And that folks, it’s what the Muni is all about.

I think that’s the plot of the show. It sounds like it probably is. But you’ll have to come watch it yourself and tell me if I’m right. 

But today is special. It’s the last week before we open.  This last week is always the most fun for your theatre friends. We generally don’t go to sleep until after midnight. We lose contact with anyone from the outside world. We also eat a pretty messed up diet of Twizzlers and Starbucks coffee. So it’s sort of like we’re on Gilligan’s Island – I think. Plus we are all on edge – ready to explode at any minute either in a volcanic eruption of anger or a nice-calm emotional breakdown. SOMETIMES BOTH! So it’s DEFINITELY like we’re on Gilligan’s Island.

So grab your tap shoes and a friend and come see this funny, heart-warming, slightly creepy production of Thoroughly Modern Millie. And if you don’t leave the theatre with a smile on your face – the Muni will refund you personally. Probably. Maybe not. WHO KNOWS! I’VE ONLY BEEN HERE FOR THREE YEARS!

See you soon, friends!

Mrs. Meers

Opening Weekend Magic

For many, myself included, this past weekend was the official start to summer. Muni’s 2019 season kicked off with three fantastic performances of Peter Pan. Audiences were whisked off to Neverland with a little faith, trust, and pixie dust.

For me, Friday night was particularly magical as it was the first time I got to see Peter Pan from the audience, as I was in the cast of the last two productions. What made it really special though, was sharing that experience with my own mini Peter Pan and Wendy Bird.

Wendy Bird in training!
Wendy Bird viewed Act 3 in her dreams.
Peter Pan in training with his favorite (Uncle) pirate!

Seeing the magic through their eyes was a dream come true, and hearing my son, Aiden, singing the songs all weekend, was a prime example of why Muni performers and volunteers keep returning year after year. The memories made in a single performance can be life long and magical.

He’s just the cleverest fella, t’was ever my fortune to know…

So, lets keep the Muni Magic going with a chance to win two tickets to the show of your choice! If you were in attendance this weekend, please share a picture or a favorite moment from your visit. If you haven’t made it out yet this year, share what you are most looking forward to! Post your responses in the comments of our Facebook post! A winner will be chosen at random on Friday.

See you under the stars,
Lindsey Rudd
The Muni Moment Editor

10 Tips to Make Your Muni Experience Magical and Memorable

We are under two weeks away from the kick off of our 2019 season! Our wish this year is to see lots of brand new faces enjoying our productions this year. As we gear up, we wanted to share some tips and tricks for making sure you get the most out of your Muni Experience.

  1. Parking is Free!
    Muni has a spacious parking lot that is free to all of our guests. Our amazing volunteers will direct you where to go both before and after the show to ensure that you find where you’re going promptly. Pro-Tip: Muni Backstagers get preferential parking! If you are a new Backstager and this is your first time receiving this perk, just mention it to one of our parking volunteers and they will direct you to the appropriate parking area.
  2. So Many Seating Options!
    Muni offers reserved seating as well as lawn seating where you can bring a lawn chair or a blanket. Pick your preference and settle in for a night of music!
  3. Golf Cart Valet!
    Muni is a large site and when we draw large crowds that can mean parking far distances away. For our guests that prefer not to walk long distances, we offer Golf Cart services to transport you to your seat. The Golf Carts will also be glad to assist you after the show to take you back to your vehicles.
  4. Arrive Early!
    We have some BIG shows this year that are sure to draw large crowds! If you are planning on lawn seating, you will need to arrive early to get in line for the box office. The Box Office opens 90 minutes prior to each show.
  5. BYOB (Bring Your Own Blanket)
    Muni is an outdoor theater! While we can see some scorching temperatures during our shows, we can also see some chilly evenings under the stars. Grab a blanket or a hoodie and prepare for the elements.
  6. But also…BYOB 😉
    Muni does allow outside food and beverages including those of the alcoholic variety for our of age guests. Please, drink responsibly.
  7. MUNI DOGS
    You are welcome to bring in your own food, but a trip to the Muni is not complete without a delicious Muni Dog from our concession stand. Our concession stand also offers fountain and bottled sodas, popcorn, candy, nachos, and more!
  8. Bring the kids!
    Muni is a family friendly location. Our shows will delight audiences of all ages!
  9. Stick around to meet the stars!
    Following each production the cast will come out and greet the audience members. This is a great time to for the kiddos to ask for autographs! (Just remember to bring a pen.)
  10. Help us improve!
    If you have a suggestion or question about something after visiting us, please let us know! You can send us a message via our facebook page.

We cannot wait to see you under the stars! Join us beginning May 31st!

It’s Her Party and She’ll Cry For Me Argentina If She Wants To

Tomorrow marks the would-be 100th birthday of Maria Eva Duarte de Perón, better known as Evita. This summer, The Muni is delighted to produce Andrew Lloyd Webber’s musical of the same name for the first time since 1984. And although this show is a beautiful tribute to her mythical stature, it is also an artful blend of biography and added drama… That’s my kind of way of saying it is historical flim-flamm-written-by-men-gobbledy-gock.

In an era of ‘fake news’ and women beginning to tear apart the social patriarchy, let’s set the record straight for her gosh darn 100th birthday: Eva Duarte Peron frickin’ ROCKED. Don’t let the narrator CHE, or any other ANGRY MAN SCREAMING IN THE STREETS tell you otherwise.  Evita was one of those women determined to claw her way out of poverty and make a difference, and she GOT IT DONE in every way available to her. The musical, beautiful as it is, unnecessarily disparages a lot of Eva’s achievements and doesn’t give her backstory the justice it deserves.  

Sure, the basics are all there: she was born poor and moved to Buenos Aires as a teenager, became an actress, met Juan Peron at a fundraiser, married him, he became the President and she became the spiritual leader of Argentina before her untimely death from cervical cancer at the age of 33.

However, the patchwork glimpses we get of her disposition and ambitions are skewed and often one-sided. Che, our narrator, croons to us a lot of unchallenged rumors. For example, he portrays her as a prostitute for fame and power during the entirety of the song, “Goodnight and Thank You”. While ambitious social climbing is one way to understand those (never documented) events, another way is that she was a victim of an entertainment system in which men sexually exploited actresses. (SOUND FAMILIAR, ANYONE? Beuller?) If Eva took advantage of that system, it doesn’t mean it wasn’t deeply manipulative of her at the same time. And let’s not forget she was a teenager during these “climbing up the power ladder” years. I understand consent rules were different then, but do you remember being 15 years old? Exactly how impressively manipulative do you think fifteen-year-old girls are, regardless of the era? I think I managed to seduce the captain of the JV scholastic bowl team to make out with me, and I felt pretty good about THAT. What I’m trying to say is we’re being fed a load of horse-wallop. This is mostly due to the fact that the lyrics and storyline of the musical are based on a 1952 biography, Evita: The Woman with the Whip, which drew heavily upon the accounts of anti-Perónist Argentines. Unfortunately, the book lacked any real historical references or serious research, which is why the audience receives a distorted and unsympathetic portrayal of ma girl, Eva.  If you want a more balanced look, you might check out Evita: The Real Life of Eva Peron, by Nicholas Fraser and Marysa Navarro, which was written as a response to the musical.

Most of the critical remarks against her character in the musical come from Che. He’s supposed to be an everyman, but with a name like that and a revolutionist’s heart we cannot help but think of Che Guevara. Over the years (and a few costume changes) he’s become more of Mr. Guevara, and Che as well as Evita symbolize certain naïve, but endearing beliefs: the hope for a better world and a life sacrificed on the altar of the disinherited poor. It must not go unnoticed that both the real-life Che and Evita were idolized, polarized, and perceived martyrs in their own right- him by wanting to overthrow the power structures that created the impoverished, and she by working her way inside of them.

But I digress.

It is my genuine belief that the finest way to celebrate the birth of such an iconic woman is not to point out every historical inaccuracy of the show, but to relish in all of her impressive achievements. So while you enjoy Evita at Muni under the stars this summer, keep this list of her remarkable successes bouncing around in your brain. It will help you to better understand who she was and why so much of an entire country mourned her passing. Since the internet is a place where you read snippets (and if you’ve made it this far you’re probably tired of reading anyways), I have created a top 10 list of her achievements. So here it is.

10 hip, notable things Evita accomplished:

10. She was featured on the cover of Time Magazine in July 1947

Evita is the ONLY South American First Lady to ever appear alone on the cover of Time Magazine, and she was the first woman to appear in public on the campaign trail with her husband.

9. Evita became the highest paid radio actress in Buenos Aires

She also started her own entertainment company at the age of TWENTY called The Company of the Theater of the Air, which produced a series of biographies about famous women. What were YOU doing at 20 years old?? I was delivering pizzas.

8. She founded a union

In May 1943, Evita founded Agrupación Radial Argentina, a union which she was elected the President of a year later. She also doled out generous wage increases to unions after becoming first lady.

7. Evita helped the women in Argentina get the right to vote

Evita championed women’s suffrage, and after the Argentine congress gave women the right to vote in 1947, she rallied them to create the first women’s political party called the Peronist Women’s Party in 1949.

6. She handed out toys to 4 million children in Argentina’s poorest families

Children’s rights were of great importance to Eva because of her own impoverished childhood. Achieving justice for children was a particular focus for her, and they continued to find warehouses filled with toys and goods for vulnerable families until the 1970’s.

5. Evita actually worked at a desk as first lady

She wanted to be a true champion of the working class, so she served her people face-to-face. She opened offices in the Ministry of Labor, sat at the desk and greeted the people in need of help. Evita also responded to all of her mail herself.

4. She continued to work tirelessly even while having cancer

Evita worked right up until her death. In fact, she was so frail at her last public outing that they had made her a wire cage to keep her standing upright. She died at age 33 of cervical cancer, the same disease Juan Peron’s first wife died of. Now that we understand that disease better, it’s highly likely Juan carried an aggressive strain of human papilloma virus that infected and killed both women at such a young age. Why don’t we sing a song about THAT??

3. She ran for Vice President

She was asked to run with her husband in 1951, but unfortunately for Eva she had to pull out her candidacy due to opposition from the military and her failing health.

2. She was given a funeral for a head of state

Evita wasn’t a head of state, but she had one just the same. BALLER.

1. Her body disappeared for two decades

When the army staged a coup in 1955, Eva’s corpse disappeared when soldiers feared that even her BODY might remain a symbolic figure for the poor. She was so powerful that EVEN IN DEATH she was considered a threat. Her body was eventually returned to her family crypt two decades later.

Eva Peron remains an enduring cultural icon in Argentina and most of Latin America, and though she is viewed as many things, one commonality is her love of the arts. Evita traveled to the big city on a dream of becoming an actress; managed to achieve that dream, form her own company and produce theatrical works that helped pave the way for her future success. This is what we celebrate today. We are celebrating the 100th birthday of a woman who loved art, who was art, and who this art was created for.

Political ambitions aside, nearly all of us in the Muni family (onstage, backstage, or in the audience) can relate to being 15 years old and imagining ourselves in the spotlight, or creating spectacular costumes, or speaking into a microphone in front of thousands of people, or being dazzled by watching a large-scale production musical that’s so moving it brings us to our feet.

We celebrate all strong women who are involved in the arts, and recognize they each have their own unique story to tell. Springfield is so lucky to have a place like Muni, where a 15-year old’s dreams of accomplishing those things can come true without ever having to leave home. They did for me. So it is my sincerest hope that you will come and enjoy Evita this summer at Muni, and perhaps one of them will spark for you too.

Courtney Wick

SIGNING OFF

All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.

Season Tickets, Backstagers, and Lawn Seating…Oh My!

It’s crunch time, ladies and gentlemen! We are now just a little over a month away from opening night of Peter Pan. Have you gotten your tickets yet? Not sure where to start? Below you will find some of the ways you can acquire tickets, and some of those methods also come with extra perks. Read on!

Season Tickets

Season Tickets are a great investment for those Muni lovers who know they will be seeing every show, or for those superfans who plan on catching multiple performances of one of our four shows. Seasons Tickets give you four reserved tickets that can be used in any combination within the season. For example, use one for each of our four shows, or even use all four in one evening and take the whole family! Season Ticket holders can start reserving their seats today (4/22), so hurry and get yours so you can lock in the best seat in the house. For more info: http://themuni.org/SeasonPass.aspx

Backstagers

Muni is an all-volunteer organization. Our productions would not be possible without our amazing volunteers or our loving and supportive community. When it comes to financial assistance, our Backstagers are the bee’s knees, and we love them! We also love to show them we love them!

“Backstagers memberships, beginning at $50 and available at many levels, come with many special benefits. At various levels, Backstager memberships include coupons for Muni popcorn and fountain drinks, season passes, and yes, even premium parking and exiting. Backstagers get first pick of the best seats in the house as well as other special opportunities. We also recognize Backstagers for their financial support by inclusion in the Muni programs throughout our season.”

If you were already considering season tickets, why not go an extra step and become a Backstager. The Backstager event is not one you’ll want to miss! For more info on Backstagers: http://themuni.org/Backstager.aspx

Lawn Seating

Let’s be honest, friends. Some theaters are TIGHT quarters. It is not always enjoyable to watch your favorite musical next to Suzy Sing-a-Long and Steve Snores-a-lot. Muni provides you with fresh air and comfortable reserved seating, but if you still feel like you need a little more space, Muni offers General Admission where you may bring in your own lawn chair or blanket.

The promotional photos are out, the grounds are being cleaned, and the first show has already been out working on sets. It is getting real, y’all! Get your tickets so you can be part of the magic! http://themuni.org/Ticket.aspx

See you under the stars,

Lindsey

All views and opinions expressed on The Muni Moment are those of the guest writers and do not necessarily represent the views of the Springfield Muni Opera.