Dec 20 2013

With the renovated Bagdad Theater garnering a lot of (well-deserved) attention lately, we thought it might be good to shine a spotlight on the Back Stage Bar.

Back StageYou've probably heard the story of this colorful, collaborative mural (left) painted by the McMenamins artists (in this case, Joe Cotter, Kolieha Bush, Olivia Behm, Myrna Yoder, Jenny Joyce and Lyle Hehn) that hangs at the Back Stage Bar, our seven-story-high pub located literally behind the scenes at the Bagdad Theater.

This remarkable 20' x 20' piece was created specifically for the Back Stage's opening in 2006, tracing the Bagdad property's history from past to present - you can read all about it here.

But what about the other gigantic wall hanging at the Back Stage?

Throw your imagination way back to 1927, at the Bagdad's opening as a vaudeville theater. On performance nights, this back stage area was a place of orchestrated pandemonium, the nerve center for the machinations of the vaudeville productions: lights, sound effects, curtains, sets, backdrops, and acres of rope, rigging and catwalks...

Back StageProviding a compelling setting for the massive backbar (a great piece in and of itself, hailing from the Olympic Club in Centralia, Washington) is one of the Bagdad's old vaudeville back drops. The panel appropriately hangs where the stage originally opened into the theater.

This huge piece, with its once-brilliant colors faded by time and the elements, dwarves the 20x20 mural. It would have been pulled up or dropped down straight, not on a roller, which is one reason why a full seven stories were needed to accommodate the back stage area of the grand Bagdad Theater.

The image of the Taj is set within a lotus-like keyhole, between blue-floral, mosaic-like borders, a nod to the beautiful semi-precious stone inlays of the famous monument in Agra, India.

Back StageOne wonders why a permanent Taj Mahal back drop was needed for the theater - was it commissioned for a specific show? Was it regularly lowered to offer audiences a "visual filler" between acts as stage hands rushed around behind the scenes? Or was the Taj mistakenly considered relevant to the Bagdad's faux-Middle Eastern décor? [Ed. note: The distance between Agra, India, and Bagdad, Iraq, is 2,044 miles; India is not considered to be part of the Middle East.]

Have a look at both murals, each beautiful in its own right, the next time you stop by the Back Stage, perhaps with a pint of India Pale Ale in hand.

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