Brother inherits theatre legacy>Joseph Musil theatre models

The Peninsula Gateway (Gig Harbor, Washington)

Wednesday March 9, 2011


Brother inherits theatre legacy

By Susan Schell, The Peninsula Gateway, Gig Harbor, Wash.

March 09–Almost every corner of Bob Musil’s Gig Harbor living room is occupied by colorful, intricately detailed, 3-D models of movie theatres and playhouses. They are the legacy of his late brother, Joseph Musil.

Joseph was a lifelong theatre designer whose work includes the renovation of Los Angeles icons such as the El Capitan Theatre in Hollywood, the Crest Theatre in Westwood, the Universal City Walk Theatre in Studio City and the Long Beach Community Playhouse.

"He was a self-made theatre designer," Bob said. "The models are concept models and working models for restoration projects. Each one has a different mix of ideas."

Some of the models are so lifelike, they have moving set pieces that can be raised or lowered by pullies, mimicking the real-size version. Peering into one of the models is like being an audience member at a lavish miniature production.

When Joseph passed away in July, Bob inherited the models that were on display at the Santa Ana Artist’s Village in California. Joseph called his studio "The Salon of Theatres."

"The models were part of a gorgeous studio," Bob said. "People would go to his studio and just fall over. Every month, the village would have an open house, and he’d give people a tour with lights and music and maybe a short film. Joe was all about presentation. It was his whole thing in life."

Joseph was part of an old-world concept of having movie and playhouses as pieces of exotic art themselves. He embraced the Art Deco style, and many of his pieces reflect cultural themes with Asian influences.

"He was all about the glam and glitz," Bob said. "He thought that, when people went to the movies, they wanted to get away from the problems of life. He wanted his designs to bring people up. Why would anyone want to walk into a boring building?"

Some Musil-designed buildings are historic landmarks; some have long since burned down or have fallen into disrepair.

Walking among Musil’s theatre models is like having a bird’s-eye view of his life’s work. He even made an artist’s rendering of a theatre for downtown Gig Harbor, but Bob feels it was too lavish for the little fishing village.

The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences in Los Angeles has expressed an interest in Joseph’s collection. Bob said he wasn’t surprised.

"He was very well-known in the business behind the scenes," Bob said. "They want to recreate his studio for one of their museums."

Bob Musil feels a Hollywood museum would be a fitting place for some of his brother’s work, but he’s undecided on what to do with the whole collection. He spoke about the thriving art community in Gig Harbor and hopes one or more of Joseph’s pieces can find a home here.

"I don’t want them to end up in a Dumpster somewhere," Bob said. "There’s a lot of pent-up energy here. They can always go to the Academy, but it would be nice if someone could get some inspiration from his work here."

Reach Lifestyles Coordinator and reporter Susan Schell at 253-853-9240 or by e-mail at susan.schell

Leave a Comment

You can use these tags: <a href="" title=""> <abbr title=""> <acronym title=""> <b> <blockquote cite=""> <cite> <code> <del datetime=""> <em> <i> <q cite=""> <s> <strike> <strong>


© Theatre Historical Society of America. York Theatre Building • 152 N. York Street, 2nd floor • Elmhurst, IL 60126-2806 • Ph. (630) 782-1800 • Fax (630) 782-1802 • • Copyright © 2013 Theatre Historical Society of America. All rights reserved.