Performers of Iowa theater leave their mark
Last Update: 1:39 am
SIOUX CITY, Iowa (AP) — When giving a tour of the Orpheum Theatre, Joe Mahaney provides details about the one-ton chandelier. He speaks enthusiastically about the gilded stenciling and the manner in which restorationists matched colors and patterns with the building’s original scheme in 1927.
But Mahaney, a theater technician, probably saves the best for last.
“Back here,” says Mahaney as he walks through the ghost light that illuminates an otherwise dark stage. “You’ve got to see the history back here.”
On two backstage walls are hundreds of autographs, messages and doodles left by those who have graced the stage since The Orpheum reopened in September 2001.
President Barack Obama signed after a campaign speech Dec. 17, 2007. Bill Cosby left his signature after he helped open the place a week after the attacks of Sept. 11.
“Live wrong,” wrote comedian Ron White.
Hal Holbrook quoted Mark Twain after his one-man show on America’s greatest humorist. “Be good and you will be lonesome,” Holbrook wrote after his show in 2005.
There are simple messages: “Nice people,” wrote Iowa pianist Roger Williams; “All the best,” scribbled Bob Newhart.
Signing a backstage wall after a performance is show business tradition, much like the ghost light that some contend wards off evil spirits of past shows gone bad.
The signature tradition had a Sioux City tie with the original Orpheum. Officials recall seeing names like Katharine Hepburn and Kirk Douglas fading on a wall near a lower level dressing room. Sadly, that piece of history crumbled years ago.