Actors, directors and stage crew members go through a backstage “rite of passage” during performances at the Performing Arts Center in downtown Leavenworth.
Located on walls, ceilings, steps, doors, crevices and many more places are signatures, artwork and messages from play participants.
“There are thousands of names on these walls,” said Marianne Tennant, director of the board of directors of the River City Community Players. “It’s a rite of passage. Wall-signing is a tradition at many theaters.”
The most famous signature on the wall is from internationally famous singer-songwriter Melissa Etheridge, a native of Leavenworth.
Etheridge was given a tour of the theater and signed the wall during her May 2015 visit to her hometown.
Her signature is a little hard to read – but it’s there high on a wall backstage left.
Well-known jazz musician David Basse wrote his name on the steps of a cement staircase.
Richard Bayse has acted in or directed more than 30 shows at the theater. He has chronicled his career on a wall backstage.
Tennant said the youngest person to have “signed” the wall was Jackson Casisi, who was about 1 year old when he performed in “Oklahoma!” Actually, his father signed his name for him.
The facility was constructed in 1938 as a movie theater called the Hollywood Theater, according to Tennant. The theater was gifted to the city in 1977 and turned into a live theater venue called the Performing Arts Center.
Show participants began signing the wall at the completion of each show run. But in the early 1990s, Tennant said the walls were painted over in an effort to spruce up the theater.
But in the mid-1990s, the tradition of signing the wall resumed and continues to this day.
The theater features about six shows each year. Each show has about 10 actors. That would amount to approximately 2,500 signatures on the walls since the mid-1990s.