FREEMASONIC THEATER EXHIBIT
TOURS THROUGH 1998

I am posting the following announcement of a museum exhibit because it seems that it will be of interest not only to Freemasons but to those whose work involves the design and public presentation of "sacred spaces."

For those unfamilar with the Scottish Rite, the major subject of the exhibit, it is an "appendant body" of Freemasonry in which mystery plays based upon the mythic or legendary aspects of the Crusades are presnted for the moral edification of candidates. The writer or redacter of most of the Scottish Rite plays performed in America at this time was a man named Albert Pike, a Classics scholar (and former Confederate General during the Civil War) who organized and codified the several conflicting European traditions of the Scottish Rite in the latter part of the 19th century. Pike was well-versed in the Egyptology of his day, fluent n Greek and Latin, and even a student of the then-new field of Meso-American studies -- and he brought his vast knowledge of comparative mythology to bear in compiling The Scottish Rite mystery plays.

Although one must be a Freemason to attend the National Masonic Expo mentioned below, one need NOT be a Mason to attend the exhibt of Freemasonic stage settings at the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus, which will be open to the public.

From: "Duane E. Anderson"

October 5 & 6, 1996 marked the opening and dedication of the national museum exhibit entitled "The Theatre of the Fraternity".

Those of us who have been initiated, passed and raised in Masonry are well aware of the drama associated with our entrance into our beloved "Craft." Those who have gone beyond the Blue Lodge and pursued further light in Masonry through the Scottish and/or York Rites have had an even greater exposure to the awesome stage scenery, costumes, props, and drama of Masonry. This personal journey will be made even more meaningful when you see the fascinating exhibit which Professor C. Lance Brockman has created for the Weisman Art Museum on the University of Minnesota campus.

Many of us have had the privilege of hearing Professor Brockman speak and show his slides of Masonic stage scenery. However, the limitations of time and space have only allowed him to present a small portion of his research during any one presentation. Professor Brockman has been engaged in this research for many years. His pursuit has taken him to all the corners of this country and into many Masonic organizations. The exhibit which will open during our Fall Masonic Conference brings these years of research into focus in a way which will surprise and delight those who are privileged to participate in this wonderful event.

The University of Minnesota and the National Endowment for the Arts assisted in the funding of this project. It is only fitting that the national premier of the exhibit be at the University of Minnesota. The entire first floor of the new and recently opened Weisman Art Museum will be devoted to this show. The show will open to the public on Sunday, October 6, 1996, and will remain open for several months. It will then travel to several other cities around the country over the next two years. As a participant in the National Masonic Expo, you will have an exclusive preview on Saturday afternoon. Assisting Professor Brockman with the opening will be Dr.s John Hamilton and Will Moore, two nationally recognized authorities in scholarly fields of research on Freemasonry. Each of these distinguished academics will speak at the Weisman Art Museum during the afternoon premier opening.

The exhibit is divided into four specific areas. The research to be displayed provides examples of scenery, costumes, and props of the drama of initiation into various fraternal organizations. But more importantly, it looks into the personal motivations and the psychological benefits of the whole fraternal experience. Each of the items or scenes displayed is accompanied by an explanation of the importance it has had for the initiates and the members. The four areas of concentration are "A Nation of Joiners," "Facing Mortality," "Victorian Knighthood," and "Transformation of Self." As you can see from the titles of the four areas, this is far more than just a display of old equipment. The exhibit looks into the very core of the reason for Masonry's existence through the centuries.

We are all aware of how important Masonry is to every one of us. This show may very well make you realize just why you are so dedicated to the principles and tenets that you have been taught in the many degrees through which you have advanced. Most of the materials presented will involve positive aspects of fraternal ritual which never seem to get much public examination. The exhibit has had the support of national leaders in the Scottish Rite Research Society because the exhibit is scholarly rather than promotional, historical rather than an expose'. You may be assured that the exhibit is based upon the highest level of scholarly research and is presented in a way that is totally accessible and engaging to the public.

When Professor C. Lance Brockman, Head of the University of Minnesota Theatre Arts Department in Minneapolis, started his research many years ago, he focused on a study of stage scenery from the so-called "Golden Age of Scenic Design" from 1880 to 1930. However, there was very little turn of the century vintage stage scenery available for Professor Brockman to study. When a theatrical production such as a play or opera was completed, the scenery was usually painted over and used for another production, or was discarded. Very little of the actual scenery from this era remained for Professor Brockman's research.

However, he soon discovered that the scenery used by most of the Scottish Rite Bodies around the country was painted by the same scenic design companies that produced the theatrical scenery of that earlier era. Because the Scottish Rite degrees are performed repeatedly and remain relatively unchanged, the same scenery was used from one year to the next. Also it was at the turn of the century when the various Scottish Rite Valleys all over the country experienced their phenominal growth, probably due directly to the stage presentation of degrees to large Scottish Rite classes.

Many of the Valleys had their scenery created by professional scenic design companies such as Sosman and Landis of Chicago, the Great Western Stage Company, or Twin Cities Scenic Design. Professor Brockman, who had studied many of the original sketches and paintings used by these companies to paint the Scottish Rite scenery, soon discovered the vast treasury of turn of the century full scale stage scenery in the possession of the various Scottish Rite Bodies. He began to visit these Valleys to study their scenery. He travelled to many cities around the country to personally study, photograph, and document this wealth of theatrical history. Soon his interest expanded to include other aspects of the theatre and drama of rites of initiation of various fraternal organizations. Even though his research is comprehensive, there is a definite Scottish Rite flavor to many of the displays in the national museum exhibit known as "The Theatre of the Fraternity".

While all Masons will be impressed with the exhibits, Scottish Rite enthusiasts will find particular interest in the many degree scenes featured in the exhibit. Scottish Rite officers, members of degree casts, behind the scene workers, and Scottish Rite members are encouraged to take advantage of the wonderful opportunity to attend the National Masonic Expo and the opening of "The Theatre of the Fraternity" exhibit. For registration information, contact the Grand Lodge office in St. Paul, Minnesota for further information.

Details about conference registration and hotel reservations can be obtained from the Grand Lodge AF&AM of Minnesota at
612/222-6051 (voice)
612/222-6144 (fax)
Grand.Lodge.of.Minnesota@Mn-Mason.Org (email)

--forwarded to the freemasonry-list by...
        M           ~~~~~~~~~~ larso145@gold.tc.umn.edu ~~~~~~~~~~~
       A M          ~~~~~~~~~ or Rod.Larson@Mn-Mason.Org ~~~~~~~~~~
      S   A         ~~~~~ Rod Larson, PGM, A.F.&A.M. of Minn ~~~~~~
     T     S        ~~~~ 1918-149th Ave NE, Ham Lake,MN 55304 ~~~~~
 F  E       O  N    ~~~ What we have done together is more than ~~~
   R         N      ~ what we have done, because it was together. ~
  *   O   I   *
 *      M      * PM,PM/MOVPER,PWM/AASR,KCCH,PSM/AMD,pp./NS,pp./MCME,C/H76

-- and thanks to Rod, for passing it along. Please feel free to redirect this announcement toward interested parties in the fields of theatre design and art history.

Here is a schedule of the exhibit's tour, courtesy of Gurnee Bridgman, GURNEE@VAX1.BEMIDJI.MSUS.EDU.

Dates                              Location

October 6, 1996 - January 5, 1997  Minneapolis, MN
January 20,1997 - June 20, 1997    Kent State Museum, Kent, OH
June 30,1997 - February 9,1998     Scottish Rite Museum, Lexington, MA
May 20,1998 - September 15,1998    Plains Art Museun, Fargo, ND

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