Allied Arts Council 


Saint Joseph, Missouri  U.S.A.

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Waylande Gregory 

Waylande Gregory provided the inspiration and perspiration for all the ornamental plasterwork found in the 1927 Missouri Theater.  Though just 20, he was both designer and sculptor, supervising a team of 20 to 30.  

Prior to his work on the theater he sent the following to a Mr. Habecker at the New Press in St. Joseph in 1926:

              You have asked me to describe the new Missouri Theatre - I am of course limited to the information of the proposed plans and to my own active imagination - it will be in the latter capacity that you shall be endangered.  First I must credit Mr. Boller - the architect for his liberal point of view in allowing me the necessary freedom in designing the sculptural detail to combine the complex influence of styles selected, including the Hittite Assyrian Persian and Arabian into a creation of original ornamentation - it has been my aim to blend the desirable qualities of each of these styles into a decorative embellishment in harmony with the spirit of the architecture.

            A reminiscence rather than a restoration.  The casual observer will undoubtedly be aroused to curiosity when in the vicinity of the theatre - there will be a wonder in his mind as to the unusual forms of the architecture and of the interesting color combination.

            If that observer is a student of history or art there will be some attempt to analyze its style - it will be found to be something new and yet quite old. -- The Assyrian and Persian arts date from a period of about four thousand years ago - Babylon and Persepolis were dead long before Christ. 

            The interior of the theatre will represent an open air play house with all the atmospheric splendor of a royal palace of one of the ancient kings - it will be richly colored with reds - blues and sun baked yellows -- Over the top will be stretched a huge tented canopy, gloriously decorated, upon which fall the hot rays of the eastern desert sun.  Along the kings - it will be richly colored with the vigorous ceramic mineral reds - blues and sun baked yellows - 

            Over the top will be stretched a huge tented canopy, gloriously decorated upon which fall the hot rays of the eastern desert sun - along the sides will be massive columns surmounted by the kneeling calves sacred to these people - these columns will create wide window like spaces thru which a long view of the barren landscape can be seen in the distance. (conveyed by oil paintings).  Toward the stage will be a large screen of oriental tracery from which the weird music of eastern cymbals and reed instruments may sound - beneath these on either side will be a large carved figure of the sacred winged bull bearing the head of a glorified dignitary of the royal house 

            Above the stage proscenium will be a border of phallic gods fertilizing the female tree of life. I have endeavored to carry this same symbolism thru all the details of the decorative carving. Frieze around the sides will represent sacrificial goats kneeling before the tree of mystery - another frieze in the uppermost cornice will represent the conflict of opposing archers - 

            It is fortunate that Mr. Boller - the architect has in his force such a man as Mr. Engle who possessed the perspicacity to delve into history and bring to St Joseph such a building so unique with anything in the country - one wonders why American architects have not before appreciated the ancient Assyrian architecture to the extent adapting it as been done in this admirable instance.  May this set a standard for St. Joseph's future courage in building and give it a place in the regard of the art world - I hope this will give some sort of a vision as to what is happening in the instance of the Missouri Theatre.

Signed  

Waylande Gregory.     

To learn more about Waylande Gregory visit the site created by Bianca Brown, de-facto curator of Waylande Gregory legend http://www.angelfire.com/pa3/wy/

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Allied Arts Council of St. Joseph
118 South 8th Street ~ St. Joseph, Missouri  64501
Phone:  816.233.0231 ~ Fax:  816.233.6704
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