Tuesday, March 5, 2013
"Postcards from the Past: Orpheum Theatre" by Thomas Canfield
The lobby had a vaulted terra-cotta ceiling and a colored tile floor decorated in a mosaic pattern. A lounge for women, which featured maid service, was fitted with divans, lounging chairs, writing desks, telephones, and dressing tables. The auditorium’s domed roof was painted blue with artificial stars. The stage curtain, made of wire woven asbestos weighing approximately 1,200 pounds, was painted to resemble velvet. The back of the first postcard reads: "The most thoroughly perfected playhouse in the world. The switch which covers the electric system is the largest utilized in a theatre and capable of more than 7,000 lighting combinations. The stage is 100 feet long. This theatre cost one-half million dollars." In 1962, the Orpheum was demolished to make room for an addition to the Muehlebach Hotel.
Thomas Canfield teaches theatre, humanities, and English at UMKC and National American University. He is currently writing a history of the first resident professional theatre company in Kansas City, the Circle, which was located in Union Station from 1962 - 67.