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:
Description of Missouri Theatre
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
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.”