The Kentucky Library & Museum is currently displaying materials that document the history of Bowling Green theater in an exhibit titled “Enjoy the Show,” which ends February 14, 2011. Nineteenth century items are rare, but the exhibit does include an March 1833 hand scribed broadside advertising the Bowling Green Thespian Society’s production of the melodrama, “Luke the Labourer; or, The Lost Son.” Tickets to this amateur production cost twenty-five cents. Other items from the 1800s include illustrations of Bowling Green’s opera house, programs, an elaborate paper puppet stage, as well as photographs of costumed actors.
Theater in Bowling Green blossomed in 1932 with the incorporation of the Bowling Green Players Guild. Items on display from this early amateur group include playbills, programs, the organization’s constitution and a membership card, as well as sketches for set designs and costumes. Items from later theater groups, such as the Alley Theater, Public Theater of Kentucky, Fountain Square Players and Bowling Green Community Players are included.
The exhibit emphasizes dramatic productions at Western Kentucky University. One case features memorabilia from the Western Players and another focuses on longtime WKU theater professor, playwright, and director, Russell H. Miller (1905-1968). Two costumes from the WKU Department of Theater and Dance highlight the exhibit. The more elaborate ensemble is a shepherdess costume from “Bastein and Bastienne,” a Mozart opera performed last spring. The other is a simple, but symbolic, green dress used in “The House of Bernarda Alba” in 2009. The Kentucky Library & Museum thanks Shura Pollatsek, Department of Theater and Dance, for assisting with the costumes.