Within hours of the museum announcing our grand reopening date of November 21, the staff got this email message: “This is your chance to be on The Today Show! Al Roker, NBC's weatherman, will be at the Washington Monument tomorrow, July 31, and will be live every 1/2 hour beginning at 6:51 a.m. We are looking for early morning volunteers who would hold up a 15-star flag and wear hard hats.”
I start work early anyway, so I signed up—and yes, I’ll admit, imagined being on national TV as a spokesperson for the museum. What special feature of the reopening could I best promote? After some rehearsing in front of the bathroom mirror, I decided to focus on three new museum theatre presentations. So if—no, WHEN—Al asked for my input, I’d start with the skit that focuses on Mary Pickersgill, the Baltimore woman who sewed the flag that became our Star-Spangled Banner. And then I’d summarize the interactive drama that encourages visitors to imagine they, too, were preparing to stage a non-violent sit-in at a lunch counter in Greensboro, North Carolina, in 1960. And—ta-da, big finish here—I’d wrap it up with a synopsis of “Letters Home,” a selection of funny, sad, insightful, and poignant letters written by GIs over the past 200 years from their battlefronts. And then, yes, I’d tell Al that we’re holding auditions, and he would be welcome to try out . . .
So I showed up (at “dawn’s early light,” no less) and was delighted to find 15 of my colleagues assembled there, too. We donned hardhats, practiced holding the 15-star flag (MUCH smaller than the Star-Spangled Banner), chatted with tourists, talked up the reopening to them, and worried that we might be upstaged by that cute little Cub Scout . . . When our Big Moment came, Al talked about our reopening date and showed us waving and cheering—but alas, there was no time for long chats about upcoming theatre programs.
Besides, it was time to get to the office. There is a LOT still to do—auditions, costumes, signs, staging, lighting, to say nothing of all the other programmatic elements for the reopening. This left me to wonder: will Al will do the weather again in Washington, D.C., on, say, November 21, when we’ll be able to show off the REAL Star-Spangled Banner and present our new theatre programs?
Sue Walther is Senior Public Programs Coordinator. Sue is using her 20 years of experience at the museum to develop public programs that will engage visitors in active conversation about history when the museum reopens.