Discover the Hidden Gems of the Theatre World
Hidden under the street level of His Majesty’s Theatre lies the treasure cove that is the Museum of Performing Arts. When looking from the entrance, one can be forgiven for assuming that what lies behind the heavy sliding doors will be nothing more than a few bits and pieces scattered around a small room – that is, until you step through and are instantly transported back in time.
Until the Museum of Performing Arts was opened in 2001, there was a distinct lack of places that preserved Western Australia’s rich and colourful entertainment history. For archivist, historian and actor Ivan King OAM, it was a no-brainer that WA needed such a place, so he set out to make it happen. Since its humble beginnings, the Museum of Performing Arts has grown to house an extensive collection of photographs, programs, posters, press clippings, scrapbooks, scripts, sheet music, sound tapes, designs and many magnificent costumes.
With so much going on it can be quite a sensory overload, but Ivan has carefully thought through each element of the Exhibition from the order of the photographs to their placements on the wall, to which pieces of music sit at the front of the display and which are lifted higher to your eye. With such neat organisation, it was quite a shock to set foot into Ivan’s office.
The room is half the size of the Exhibition space and is utterly full of pieces from the stage. The walls are lined with bookcases, all brimming with books and boxes and the long, mahogany desk is covered too. The desk was originally a table within the cocktail bar at His Majesty’s Theatre and Ivan likes to imagine the stars of the stage dancing their way along the top.
For Ivan, this is more than an Exhibition: it’s a labour of love and one that he’s incredibly passionate about.
“I have an intense interest in our history. It’s important to preserve this history and display it in a way that people can see it years after it happened. You can’t stop seeing the piece in person, a photo on a computer doesn’t do it justice.”
Ivan shares his passion not just through the Exhibitions themselves, but also through group tours where his theatrical expertise comes in handy. Not only will you get unique information on the Exhibition that you may not have picked up on, but you will get a gossipy and anecdotal wander through ten decades of show-business history.
The Museum of Performing Arts may be hidden away, but it is well-worth your time. After your first visit, you will soon find yourself looking down every staircase and alleyway as you hunt for the next discovery.