The Joplin Globe, Joplin, MO

August 12, 2011

DONATE: St. Louis theater extends hand to Joplin

By Kevin McClintock

JOPLIN, Mo. — It almost sounds like the name of a play — “Filling the Horse Trailer for Joplin.”

And with its mix of tragedy, kindness and hope, it probably could be something produced on a stage.

Yet there was nothing theatrical about the nearly 600 boxes of donated goods dropped off at two Joplin locations by members of The Muny Theater. The Muny, America’s oldest and largest outdoor musical theater, is located in St. Louis.

And it was only fitting that members of the Muny first contacted officials with Joplin Little Theatre, itself said to be the oldest continuously operated community theater west of the Mississippi River.

“We were just blown away,” said Cecie Fritz about the act of kindness shown by the St. Louis theater group.

Hearing about the Joplin tornado, including the destruction of the Stained Glass Theater on 26th Street, those at the Muny wanted to help. At the time, they were putting on a production of “Seven Brides for Seven Brothers,” a musical set in the American frontier. In that vein, the Muny officials struck a deal with Castlewood Stables and Horses On The Move and organized a project: “Filling the Horse Trailer for Joplin.”

And that’s exactly what St. Louis residents did — dropping off supplies, so much so that the spillover was packed inside a Muny van and covered trailer, which trailed the large, professional horse trailer as it made its way south to Joplin earlier this week.

“One of the great things about this was everything was in boxes and labeled,” Fritz said. “The ushers from the Muny had organized it, and (the men and women) of the crew all jumped in and helped get all the stuff unloaded. They were just all so gracious.”

Donated items included household/cleaning items, clothing, medicines and hygiene products. The boxes were unloaded at Catholic Charities and the Joplin Family Worship Center.

After that, Muny crew and officials took a tour of the devastated area before heading back to St. Louis.

It was the first time the Muny had ever participated in something like this, said Kwofe Coleman, the theater’s house manager. He called the entire enterprise “a great thing.”

“The folks we met in Joplin all represented a positive outlook that makes me confident that, with a little help, the city of Joplin will rebuild even better than before,” he said. “We hope our donation will help that process continue.”