Vol. 14


A Long-Lasting Love of Theater

1939; St. Louis, Missouri, USA

We all have our own summer traditions. In 1939, for my thirteen-year-old great-grandmother Toby, summertime meant going to the Muny Theatre1 in St. Louis, Missouri. Every summer, The Muny would present live professional musicals that were sponsored so that the rich and the poor could see them. Every summer Sunday in St. Louis, Toby and her friend Sylvia had a standing date to watch a Broadway spectacular at America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater.

After lunch on Sunday, Toby packed herself a peanut-butter sandwich for dinner and threw some change into her pocket for an ice cream cone, and headed to Sylvia’s house so that they could walk together to Forest Park.2 An hour into their walk, the two eager teenagers arrived at the air-conditioned3 Missouri History Museum, where they could cool off a little during the hottest part of the afternoon. Toby and Sylvia’s favorite part of the museum was the antique dress exhibit. After a quick stop in the restroom, the two friends giggled as they left the museum and skipped to the Muny Theatre.

Most of the time they would get to the theater early, before the gate opened for audience members, but that would not stop them! Instead of waiting for the gate to open, Toby and Sylvia would climb over the back fence and run straight to their favorite seats in the front center row of the “free seats” section. Toby loved everything about these breathtaking musicals — from the glamorous actors and actresses to their vibrant costumes. But Toby’s favorite parts were the joyful music and dancing, and the ice cream novelty she bought during intermission — usually a Drumstick ice cream cone covered in chocolate.

As a girl, Toby would watch the dancers leap across the stage, and she would dream that one day she would be lucky enough to buy season tickets to The Muny. As an adult, that dream came true when she and my great-grandfather purchased four center-orchestra season tickets.

The theater was really something special to my great-grand-mother, and that love has not left my family. My grandmother took theater lessons as a child instead of dance classes like her friends did. My mom and all her siblings acted in plays when they were younger — my mom was in sixteen plays when she was a child. My aunt runs a children’s theater company in New Jersey, and my mom created and runs a performing arts overnight camp in Pennsylvania.

I am very lucky that theater and music are such a big part of my life, and I am so grateful to everyone who supported public theater and for the continuing influence of my great-grandmother, who made the trip to the Muny Theatre every Sunday during The Muny’s summer season.

Aliyah Kahn; New York, USA


1. The Muny, formally named “St. Louis Municipal Opera Theatre,” is a nonprofit organization funded by individuals, corporations, and others. It celebrated its 100th anniversary in 2018.

2. Forest Park is the largest park in St. Louis, featuring cultural attractions (such as The Muny and the Missouri History Museum), athletic facilities, and green space.

3. Unlike today’s air-conditioning, the museum had ceiling fans, which effectively cooled the space and were called “air-conditioning.”



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