Lyceum series back in person

Actors perform “Ain’t Misbehavin’ in 2018. This year, performances will be free general admission. TMN Archives.

The Kohlenberg Lyceum series, which brings performers to Truman State University’s campus, will have free general admission for a season of all in-person events after being virtual throughout the pandemic.

The series has been in existence in various forms since 1899, and was established to provide experiences that would give cultural awareness in rural communities, said Dawn Howd, director of stewardship at Truman.

Foundation funds and donations from Friends of the Lyceum fund the series, said Marie Murphree, director of development and planned giving. 

The committee is looking to grow the number of donors and potentially work with some local businesses to continue to offer the Lyceum performances at no charge, Murphree said 

The speakers are paid in part by the interest from Holman Family funds, which is promoted along with the Lyceum series, Murphree said. 

In the past, there was a $10 fee to attend Lyceum performances, but the committee wants to keep them free so money is not a barrier. The Lyceum is a benefit to being a student at the University, Howd said. 

There are six Lyceum events planned for the year and two Holman Family speakers.

Performers this year include the Saint Louis Ballet, Rhonda Vincent and the Rage, and the Vanguard Jazz Orchestra. One of the Holman Family speakers will include Susana Mendoza, an alumna of Truman and Illinois comptroller. 

A committee made up of several faculty members and typically a student representative chooses the performers, though they have not filled the position of student representative yet, Murphree said. Some factors they consider are variety and diversity, said Murphree, who has been on the committee for four years. Howd has been on the committee for ten years.

“What we’re looking for in those people is people who might have a story to tell that …  students … can really benefit from,” said Murphree. “With the Lyceum series our goal is to offer cultural performances that people might not be able to access.”

Howd said the committee tries to think about the reason why the program was created, to bring cultural events to the area and consider the series’ history. 

They try to avoid bringing all of the same types of events, so not all plays or dance performances, said Howd. 

“We also try to find at least one [event] that we think will be really popular, and we always try to find some that maybe won’t be as popular, but we know the community really needs,” Howd said. “We try not to bring the same thing all the time.”

The committee tries to bring alumni since it brings a more special connections to the community, Howd said.
Murphree said one constraint is the stage space in Baldwin Auditorium. The rigging is almost 100 years old and makes it difficult to stage more intricate productions, she said, and it does not function at the same level it did 20 years ago. 

Budgeting is also a factor, particularly since admission is free, Howd said.
While deciding who to bring in for the Holman Family speaker series, they try to think about who would resonate with the greatest number of people in the community, Howd said . 

“It’s not always easy to say, ‘Students will love this and faculty will love this and the community members will love this,” Howd said.
Friday was the first in-person performance since March 2020. The Keesha Pratt Band performed. Murphree said attendance was fair.

“For all the changes that we made and for not having Lyceum in a while, I was pleased with the number of people,” Murphree said.

“It was phenomenal — she was really really good,” said Murphree. “We had people dancing, like up from their seats dancing, so it was really fun.”

Murphree said she wished there was more awareness of the Lyceum among the student body. She thought part of the reason students did not know about the series was because of the large turnover rate at the University and therefore fewer professors suggesting their students go to events. 

Tickets will be available two weeks prior to each event, Murphree said.