What will be Stage Center’s ultimate legacy? I’ll be the first to admit I am among those who haven’t always appreciated this downtown oddity. I understand it’s highly regarded in the modern architecture movement, having been designed by living legend John Johansen.
Like the Crystal Bridge Botanical Tube at the neighboring Myriad Gardens, the former Mummer’s Theater is a stand out from an era that brought downtown some pretty bland architecture (think Vincent Carrozza’s Galleria Towers and Mid-America Tower).
And yet the Crystal Bridge and Stage Center also are vastly different in this respect: if I were to guess what motivated the designers of the Crystal Bridge, they’d say it was to create something beautiful. But Johansen, who I interviewed in this story for Sunday’s Oklahoman, wasn’t looking for beauty.
Backing up again, look at this way: when I go to the Oklahoma City Museum of Art, I really like seeing the old portraits, paintings and modern pop culture paintings that depict gas stations, etc. I really don’t like the abstract, but I appreciate it for being something special – and I like that this part of the art world is included at the museum (something that wasn’t always the case – but that’s a story for another day).
OK, so it’s not as easy to understand Stage Center. But look at it closely. Enter that elaborate Tinker Toy of a theater and glance up the colorful stairways. Take a seat in the auditorium and really get a sense of the place. Then go out to the outer corridor and look out into the plaza. Look at the tubes, the elaborate linkages between the “pods.”
This is our theater. We could have settled for a big plain box. But we didn’t. At some level, this too is Oklahoma City, though it’s not a side of the community personality that we’re always comfortable with.
And so we even create legends – I’ve heard it time and again that the theater’s design was to blame for the failure of the once brilliant theatrical troupe that was to call it home – Mummer’s. And yet we can dig deeper into this aspect as well – and you can read about that here.
So what’s the future for Stage Center? It’s home now to the popular Carpenter Square Theater, though one must always remember that live theater isn’t a money maker – it is considered by many, however, a vital sign of a community’s soul, of its spirit
Things will inevitably change, as I noted at the end of today’s column. What will all mean – that’s what I want to hear from you.
Charles Hill, by the way, has some thoughts about Stage Center and John Johansen here.