The Muny, like many other St. Louis institutions, means a great deal to our community. After all, where else can you see a remarkable Broadway caliber musical theatre production under the stars?
From my first days as a picker, I’ve always considered my job to be to get the theatre ready for the next audience, and in my role as President and CEO that has meant growing our endowment. We were grateful to celebrate our 100th anniversary in 2018, and our goal is to preserve The Muny so our children and grandchildren can celebrate its 200th anniversary. We can make this goal with continuous investment in our endowment, and through the Second Century Campaign, we are doing just that.
A healthy endowment is critical to ensuring that we remain accessible to all; continue to produce theatre on its grandest scale; provide training and mentorship to the next generation of performers and technicians; and that we maintain financial stability through unforeseen times.
Unrestricted gifts to the endowment give us the flexibility to direct funds to the area of greatest need at the time, but donors may also designate endowed funds to one of four areas listed below.
As a member of the Muny family for 53 years – for the last 30 as President and CEO – I ask you to please consider making a gift to support The Muny’s endowment so that our children, and our children’s children, can continue to enjoy the magic of seeing a show under the stars at The Muny.
Education and Community Outreach
Youth have played an integral role in our productions since The Muny’s founding. Muny educational program participants range in age from nine-years-old to graduate students. They are aspiring performers, novice craftspeople, up-and-coming designers and more. Presently, The Crawford Taylor Education Initiative offers eight programs. Flagship programs like Muny Kids, Muny Teens and the vast internship program have been joined more recently by initiatives including Make a Musical and the Technical Theatre Training (T3) Program.
Through these programs, The Muny works with local educators to bring musical theater directly into their schools, offering a range of educational opportunities for young performers and providing a unique training and mentorship track for youth interested in technical theater. The Muny also serves as a producing partner for The St. Louis High School Musical Theatre Awards. Each year, 35-40 area high schools participate for a chance to advance to the National High School Musical Theatre Awards (The Jimmy Awards).
Muny interns work in every department across the theater and are sought-after for employment post-graduation. Currently, however, only collegians who live in St. Louis or who can afford housing are able to participate. Being able to provide housing stipends for Muny interns is just one of many ways to make training programs available to an even larger pool of deserving students.
Within the Crawford Taylor Education Initiative, young people acquire skills through mentoring, training and practical experience that exceed the footlights. Beyond specific performance or technical theater training, Muny students also learn teamwork, collaboration, listening skills, discipline, focus and more. By increasing our educational endowment, more youth will not only have the opportunity to experience musical theater, but also acquire marketable skills for careers in theater (onstage or behind the scenes) and beyond.
Artistic Innovation and
Stage technology and production innovation evolve rapidly. Modern audiences have a high expectation of their theatre experience, and we are committed to exceeding their expectations.
Muny shows are typically larger and grander than most. While we encourage creative teams to dream big as they design for The Muny, productions can sometimes be forced to sacrifice some innovation once the budgeting process begins. More famous celebrities, larger ensembles, pyrotechnics, flying, projections and other elaborate onstage effects are all elements that have been regularly limited due to budget constraints. When we CAN create an “only at The Muny” moment the effect is undeniable.
In 2018, the magnificent fireworks that closed the centennial season in the finale of Meet Me In St. Louis added $60,000 to that show’s budget; flying Mary Poppins in 2013 added $58,000. In 2019, the puppets used in Cinderella added $40,000 to the budget. Beyond effects, casting well-known stars, continuing in the legacy of hiring Broadway greats, can cost as much as $100,000 for just one performer.
As technology advances but budget constraints remain, many theaters rely on pre-recorded music and employ fewer musicians than a traditional, full-sized orchestra. The Muny continues to seat a full orchestra, allowing our musicians to play the most cherished classics as they were intended. When a score calls for additional parts, all efforts are made to ensure that rich, full sound is part of the Muny experience. In addition, some modern orchestrations are not written for a complete orchestra. In that instance, costs are added to rework an orchestration for a Muny show or create an orchestration for a new work.
Additional funding in this area also could be invested in modernizing scripts to better reflect cultural change, to better support large casts (which require additional rehearsals, sets, cast logistical support, etc.), to provide local union training support and more.
Whether it is a new roof, office equipment, lighting and sound enhancements, concession facilities and equipment, seat repairs or technological upgrades, the often-unnoticed projects are some of the most vital to The Muny’s operation. Ensuring that the facilities are safe, efficient and attractive for patrons, artists and staff requires constant attention and investment.
The Muny’s 11.5-acre campus includes an 11,000-seat open-air theater with a state-of-the-art air circulation system, vast in-house production, performance and rehearsal areas, administrative offices, public spaces and amenities. Like any large-scale operation, routine annual maintenance includes lighting, plumbing and roofing repairs.
As an outdoor theater, ongoing costs are incurred related to sidewalk repairs, grounds upkeep and tree care. In addition, thousands of square feet in storage is required for seasonal technical equipment and the vast array of costumes and props, ranging from small to Muny-sized. Endowment funds help to guarantee the safety and beauty of the facilities, store assets unique to The Muny and further protect the $50 million investment being made in capital improvements.
Growing operational support allows The Muny to build capacity and address unforeseen challenges while minimizing the impact on ticket prices. In recent years, inclement weather has caused show cancellations and a negative impact on the bottom line. From 2005 to 2014, The Muny averaged less than one rainout per year. In 2015 and 2016, it averaged 3.5 cancellations per year, representing $600,000 in losses over a two-year span. An operational sustainability fund provides financial security for rainy days—in The Muny’s case, literally and figuratively.
Beyond preparing for the unexpected, operational sustainability funds allow The Muny to achieve one of its fundamental missions: accessibility. In addition to 1,500 free seats every night, The Muny provides tickets to hundreds of social service organizations enabling their clients to enjoy a night at The Muny for free. Each summer, more than 100,000 people attend a show at The Muny at no cost. Part of our mission is to make musical theatre accessible to all, regardless of age, ability status or economic status.
In addition to a commitment to free seats, season tickets are available for less than $100 and single show tickets are available for only $15. In 2019, the average cost of a Muny ticket was less than $47 – which remains among the lowest ticket prices in the St. Louis area (and beyond).
In 2020, thousands of public-serving businesses and non-profits had to face the devastating ramifications of closing their doors due to COVID-19. By doing so, millions of dollars in annual revenue have been lost. As this novel virus emerged as a global pandemic, many arts institutions and theaters alike continue to deliberate the unthinkable decision to permanently close or remain open. With the financial security of a significant endowment, The Muny will be able to ask the question of what we can do to reach our audiences instead of if.
Our endowment helps protect and grow the business of theater, all the while making Muny magic possible for anyone hoping to spend an evening under the stars in Forest Park.