Going strong for 102 years now, The Muny is a place that municipal theaters across the country look to as a model of success.
And the diversity of St. Louis’ theater is among that success, said Kwofe Coleman, The Muny’s managing director.
“This job has afforded me to represent The Muny on a national level, at conferences and other events,” said Coleman, who is African American. “And it’s always a little bit surprising to walk into the room and realize that the diversity I enjoy as part of The Muny staff is not the case everywhere else. To know that those places are also looking to us and seeing what an excellent job we’re doing being representative of the community truly is something we can all be proud of.”
On Nov. 21, The Muny will receive the Corporate Diversity Award at the St. Louis American Foundation’s Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon.
Denny Reagan, president and CEO of The Muny, believes that it is equally important for the staff to be comprised of the best possible people for each position and to represent the diversity of the community the institution serves.
“We employ that philosophy in our casting and seasonal hiring, so that everyone that comes to this theatre sees some reflection of themselves in all aspects of The Muny,” Reagan said.
“Not just in name, but also in practice, this institution is truly the municipal theatre of St. Louis – all of St. Louis. That means from the stage to back lot to the highest levels of this organization, all St. Louisans can see reflections of themselves.”
Coleman has risen from the ranks of a teen usher to one of the top positions within the organization. A friend of the family worked there and introduced the Colemans to the organization. At 36, Coleman is extremely young for the position he assumed in December 2019 – but he has 20 years of experience in a host of capacities at the world-renowned institution under his belt.
As a black man, Coleman said that there is an additional sense of pride that comes with the notion that seeing him in the position will help everyone connect with the concept that The Muny is “everyone’s theater,’ especially in the black community.
“I hope that my role makes our efforts for diversity top-of-mind for people, but not necessarily that it’s all of sudden different – but recognize what already exists for the African-American community in this institution.”
Coleman said that from inside-out, The Muny represents an incredible level of diversity in all areas – from the top level and throughout the ranks – pointing to the Director of Advancement Courtney Simms as further evidence.
“I can stand at the side of that house – from the free seats to the first row of box seats – there is such a large swath of the socio-economic representation of the city in one place,” Coleman said. “And for two or three hours, or however long the show is, it doesn’t matter who you are, how you got there or whatever means you have, when you leave this place, there is a shared singular experience that everyone is having. And to play any part in that means more than anything else.”
The core of The Muny’s identity is the belief that people from various backgrounds or walks of life can come together for a shared singular experience, Reagan said.
“And that extends beyond the audience,” Reagan said. “The best way to ensure that the product is representative to an entire community is by making sure that those behind the scenes, those driving the institution and creating the art, represent the entire community as well.”
St. Louis American reporter Kenya Vaughn contributed to this report.
The 20th annual Salute to Excellence in Business Awards & Networking Luncheon will be held Thursday, November 21 at the Hilton St. Louis Frontenac, with a networking reception at 11 a.m. and luncheon program at noon. Tickets are $100 for Preferred/VIP seating and $75 for general admission. Call 314-533-8000 or visit click here for more information or to purchase tickets.